ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A South Jersey nurse who says a routine mammogram saved her life is now encouraging everyone to get their screenings too.
Rachel Vasquez is a nurse and clinical risk manager at AtlantiCare in Atlantic City. She's had more than one life-altering event at the hospital.
"Things were really unpredictable and I was scared having my first child," she said of the birth of her daughter, Lorelai, in 2020. "Having a baby in the pandemic posed some challenges at first. Being pregnant in that time, we were afraid, we didn't know what to expect."
What happened after Lorelai was born saved Rachel's life.
"Knowing that I was 40, I needed to get my first mammogram," she said.
She wanted to be a responsible mom and take care of herself too.
"I was not anticipating anything. I had no family history. I had nothing that I was able to find on any of my personal exams," said Rachel.
It was breast cancer. She took the fight head on and won. She says her motivation was her baby at home.
Rachel's life has changed a lot in three years: she's gone from a pandemic nurse to new mom, to cancer patient, to survivor.
Through all that, she's found a new part of her identity too: advocate.
"I think advocating and really endorsing, getting your screenings is the best way I can help everybody in the community," she said.
She's participated in multiple charity events, including softball games and 5Ks, and also encourages her colleagues to get screened too.
On this Nurses Week, when the community should be celebrating her, Rachel has spent her time giving back and serving ice cream to staff.
She says part of being a nurse is always giving of yourself, and she's happy she's still able to serve.