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A Triumph of Two: Roxanne Martinez Survives Breast Cancer
When she’s not selling tickets for the Dallas Cowboys, Roxanne Martinez can be found volunteering in the educational outreach department of the Susan G. Komen Breast Center in Fort Worth.
But Martinez is not your ordinary person who has a passion for helping others. She truly is an inspiration to women in the center who are fighting against breast cancer. After all, the battle is all too familiar.
“Komen really gave me an opportunity to give back to an organization that was helping me through my breast cancer journey,” Martinez says. “Having breast cancer and being pregnant, I really knew I wasn’t going to be able to work. I decided to use my time to volunteer at the local Komen office. It also kind of empowered me to feel that I was fighting breast cancer for other women as well. It fulfilled a lot of things for me. ”
Just two years ago, Martinez was diagnosed with the disease that ultimately changed her life forever. One week after learning she was pregnant, Martinez was told that she also had triple negative breast cancer. The newfound information was a direct punch to the stomach.
And to top it off, Martinez soon lost her full-time job. Her worst nightmare, she struggled to pay for medical expenses, but found hope through the Komen Greater Fort Worth Affiliate office, which helped her with insurance issues by providing service from the Cancer Care Services and Career Assistance Fund of North Texas.
“Being terminated from my full-time employer, I was at risk of losing my health insurance,” Martinez says. “Komen actually funds several organizations and through one of those, I was able to get the medication and treatment needed. It was truly a blessing.”
Also assisting in the process of making sure Martinez had the best available care was a group of supporters nicknamed Team Roxy. These fans, who were inspired by Martinez’s story, organized fundraising events in more than 20 cities to help with her various medical expenses.
“I was just bombarded and overwhelmed by the love and support of all these people who had collaborated behind the scenes,” Martinez says. “I think that display of love and support helped me through my battle tremendously. I can’t remember a day I didn’t get a phone call, email or text message.”
That same encouragement was displayed at her part-time workplace as co-workers encouraged Martinez to persevere through all of the adversity she was facing. Unlike her full-time employer, the Cowboys set her schedule around surgeries and treatments. From sustenance to gift baskets, Martinez appreciated the support and opportunity to generate income during her time of need.
“The Cowboys have been phenomenal,” she says. “All the staff has been great and supportive. I worked there in between treatments so at some events I was bald and had a scarf on. But they really cared for me. They even made a gift basket and delivered it to my home.
“Being part of the Cowboys is like being part of a family. The team has a very unique culture. It’s been awesome working at such an amazing place where you see so many happy people. We all have one common goal, and that’s to give the fans an awesome experience.”
With support from all angles, Martinez found the strength to complete the Greater Fort Worth Komen Race for the Cure 5K just days after finishing her seventh round of chemotherapy … while seven months pregnant! The sight was nothing less than astonishing, but not surprising as Martinez’s character shone bright through the dark times.
“I had always been a supporter through friends so I would donate to their race campaign, but I had never participated in a race until I was diagnosed,” she says. “It was an amazing experience and something that I will never forget.”
But the race was just a sign of things to come. Martinez had no idea what was in store for her, but knew she could never give up as long as her daughter kept pushing and fighting along with her.
“One of my biggest inspirations was actually my unborn daughter,” Martinez says. “She really pushed me to fight hard and to continue to fight everyday for her. I had that goal of getting her into the world safely. Every time I felt that kick or heard her heartbeat, that gave me a lot of inspiration.”
A little over a week after crossing the finish line, Martinez was supposed to undergo her final chemo treatment, but unexpectedly found herself in the emergency room preparing to give birth.
Although Serenity Milagros Shelbon came into the world prematurely, she was born perfectly healthy and put a smile not only on the face of Martinez but also on a nation of supporters, the Komen organization and the Cowboys. Her arrival signified serenity, providing a fitting name.
A month after having her daughter, the final chapter of Martinez’s valiant battle was closed when her scans came back clear with no evidence of cancer. It was finally over as one life had been restored while another was just beginning.
“I tell people that I actually won my battle when I delivered my healthy baby girl,” Martinez says. “I consider that day the day of my triumph. I didn’t find out I beat cancer until about a month later, but I feel she came into this world to tell me we had won. I can’t even describe how I felt that day.”
Martinez is now in her third season as a ticket sales representative for the Cowboys and every year during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, she looks forward to seeing her team take the field with a touch of pink added to their traditional uniforms.
From gloves to shoes, Martinez will again be able to watch the Cowboys raise awareness during their Monday night game against the Chicago Bears.
“I’ve been a longtime football fan, and I remember when the whole pink movement started. I think the awareness is still very important,” Martinez says. “If I hadn’t been as aware as I was, the disease could have taken my life. It was because of all that pink that drove me to find out what that lump in my breast was. It’s the reason I’m still alive.”
Susan G. Komen and the Cowboys have had a lasting partnership and together launched a breast cancer movement with an effort known as "iPromise,” which raises breast cancer awareness through various campaigns.
"iPromise" continues to encourage Cowboys fans to get involved in support of women who have been affected by breast cancer. Each year, approximately 300 survivors and volunteers join the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in presenting a unique halftime performance. The group forms a human pink awareness ribbon that is meaningful, yet beautiful.
Having found strength in both organizations, Martinez is extremely proud to be associated with Susan G. Komen and the Dallas Cowboys. Her fight may be over, but her advocating of awareness is certainly not.
“It gives me pride like never before,” she says. “Now that I’m a survivor, it makes me proud that the Dallas Cowboys are promoting awareness and recognizing survivorship and I also try to do the same. It definitely gives me a huge sense of pride.” Read