Strides against breast cancer - Vivian Ortiz

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA - September 28, 2011

Every day this week, leading up to the walk, we will be introducing you to five women who are, indeed, making strides against the disease.

Of the five women we met, some are currently deep in their battle against the disease. Others have fought, won and are now survivors.

Today, we meet Vivian Ortiz, a South Philadelphia woman with a strong desire to raise awareness of the disease, in one community in particular.

Ortiz was diagnosed with stage 2 her2 positive breast cancer in the spring of 2006, after her routine annual mammogram.

By that time, she'd already been volunteering for four years with the American Cancer Society after a dear friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Because she went through a lot and it impacted me and I figured I have to start giving back," Vivan said.

Giving back specifically to the Latina community, working to educate women about the disease.

"Because the Latina woman, her family is first. She is last and she does not take care of herself," said Vivian.

Statistics show that Latinas have a slightly lower incidence of breast cancer but doctors say it could just mean that Latinas aren't being diagnosed.

"For some reason, this population is not getting their mammograms as vigilantly as some other populations," said Dr. Melanie Nordlinger of Abington Memorial Hospital.

Vivian blames fear and cultural stigmas around health. She had no idea her family had a history of breast cancer until she was diagnosed with the disease.

"The genetic counselor needed as much as information as possible. So then I started calling the aunts and the uncles and they said oh yes, your cousin had this, oh yes your aunt had it," Vivian said. "Well thanks for sharing!"

Vivian not only talks about breast cancer, she walks the breast cancer walks. She and her family call themselves Vivian's Victory Squad.

"It's already traumatic enough. It's already a big journey. We need to pull together and help each other," Vivian said.

You can join Sunday's walk simply by logging onto 2011 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.