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Maria Cornejo

There’s never a good time to get cancer, but for award-winning fashion designer Maria Cornejo, it was particularly bad: she had just gotten divorced and was also suffering from Lyme disease. The Chilean-born Cornejo gets real about how she got through it all, the dangerous misperception that breast cancer lumps can always be felt, and the importance of always being present.
by Sollis Health

How (and when) were you first diagnosed with breast cancer?

I was first diagnosed in September 2021. I went through two operations in November just before Thanksgiving then another two weeks later. I had just gotten divorced, bought a home, and had Lyme so both my body and mind were under so much stress.

What was more difficult: the physical pain from all the surgeries you had to get, or the emotional toll it took on you?

Both were equally difficult—not having any control over my body and having to deal with the anxiety of the treatments. And the emotional toll on my family and friends.

What’s the worst medical horror story you can share with us?

Sometimes being on my own while going through things, but the very worst was having to be in the mammogram machine for an hour and a half while the radioactive beads/markers were put in place. I was so uncomfortable, in pain, and scared: having my breast squashed while having the syringe implanted. I felt sick by the end of the placement. Then having to have a second surgery as the margins were not clear two weeks after the first.

“The biggest misconception is that you can feel a lump. Mine was almost invisible and the reason I found out was that I was very tired and losing weight.”

Can you describe any moments of humor or levity that happened along the way?

While doing my radiation treatments in March, music would be on and I always asked for Earth, Wind & Fire to cheer me up.

What surprised you the most about your experience with chronic illness?

How common it is and the need to talk to other women who had gone through it.

How did it change your approach to your work / fashion in general?

I lost my parents at a young age, so I have always appreciated being alive and present. We are not saving lives but bringing beauty and enhancing lives.

What would you say is the biggest misconception about cancer and/or breast cancer specifically?

That you can feel a lump… mine was almost invisible there and the reason I found out was that I was very tired and losing weight.

“I went through two operations just before Thanksgiving, then another two weeks later. I had just gotten divorced, bought a home, and had Lyme, so both my body and mind were under so much stress.”

Is there anything you wish you could make people understand better?

The causes … stress, diet, and environment also can play a part. I have no genetic disposition for breast cancer. My father died of pancreatic cancer at 55.

How do you foresee your Solls membership shaping your healthcare experience?

Having access to care when you need it and not when it suits the medical system is a truly rare gift.

What have you learned about yourself—and/or the human spirit in general?

I have learned that I am strong but need not to take myself for granted. I am not invincible.

Any good words to live by?

Be present. All we have is now. Yesterday is gone and who knows what tomorrow will bring.

The views and opinions expressed in this campaign are those of the participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sollis Health.
Sollis Health is a 24/7 doctor, private ER and concierge service rolled into one. Whether it’s an emergency or simply to diagnose the symptoms that you typically Google in the middle of the night, our emergency-trained doctors are ready for anything. Interested in becoming a Sollis member?