A Cancer Survivor Gives Back

At age 40, Damaris Sierra was a woman on the go.  This high energy single mother of two college age children had recently relocated to Winsted after living for many years in New Haven and Florida.  She kept herself busy working in the fast paced radio broadcasting business as a control board technician director and a scientific news announcer, while fueling her passion for music by performing and writing her own songs.

Just a few days after performing at a Breast Cancer Awareness event, Damaris felt a lump in her breast during a monthly self exam and knew instantly that something was drastically wrong.  Over the next nine months, Damaris would undergo two lumpectomy surgeries, the removal of her lymph nodes, 14 chemotherapy treatments and 30 radiation sessions.

undefinedDamaris credits her strong Christian faith values and positive attitude as helping her through this ordeal. “I never needed to ask why. I choose to live with a purpose. There is a miracle with my name on it and I choose to live.” When her children reacted to her diagnosis with anger and fear, her response was to keep stressing that she was stronger than the cancer and that she was not done living her life.

When the pain of her treatments became unbearable, friends and family brought great support, but her children became her biggest cheerleaders, reflecting Damris’ positive attitude back to her. “My daughter said to me, ‘You’re going to beat this, you can do this’ and that was the push that I needed to keep going.”

Damaris is also highly appreciative of all the emotional and financial support she received from Charlotte’s Center for Cancer Care Fund and Charlotte caregivers. “It was such a relief to not have to worry about things like rent, bills and keeping gas in my car. And, the caregivers made sure I understood what was going on, determine what type of treatment and support I needed, and they even met with my kids to see what their needs were!”

One of the greatest lessons that Damaris gleaned from her illness was the importance of enjoying life. “With my life on pause, I had the opportunity to look at the details of how I was living…gain a greater awareness of the blessing in my life…and build a better me. The whole time I was sick and receiving care from others, I was thinking…’I’m not going through this for nothing, how can I give back’?”

Now that Damaris’ treatments are finished and she is cancer free, she has answered that question and in a very meaningful way. She has spearheaded the effort to establish a new charitable organization called the Sierra Relief Foundation Inc., which helps other cancer patients meet their financial needs. “I am so grateful for all of the support I received when I needed it. Now is time for me to be the one to help others.” The Foundation recently helped its first individual, and fundraising and organizational efforts are going very well.

Her illness and recovery have also inspired songwriting. Damaris recently released a new CDE including songs she wrote during her cancer treatments. Her songs powerfully convey the emotions she felt and she refers to her most recent collection as her “journey’s journal”. A sampling of the songs on the CD include I was Born to Love You, The Storm is Over, and Come What May. They each have poignant lyrics and catchy melodies, with the first track telling the story that despite the changes in her physically, she remains an original masterpiece. She sings: “I am the image of your love, admirer of what you’ve done; I am your masterpiece and you make me shine.”

Damaris is on another mission – to educate others on the importance of conducting regular breast self exams for the early detection of breast cancer. “It is so important. I never would have learned that something was wrong. The breast self exam saved my life. I tell all my friends and everyone that I meet that they have to do this for themselves.”

A remarkable woman – a remarkable story – with remarkable plans for the future.

Charlotte Hungerford Hospital