A Thankful Life:

Jeanette Cueva reflects on life, love and holiday traditions

Jeanette Cueva is a psychiatrist in New York and is affiliated with New York-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell. Jeanette and husband David were previously featured in the global BCA Campaign, in which they shared their powerful story about how support from a loved one brought life-affirming strength in the face of Jeanette’s breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Two years later, we caught up with Jeanette to reflect on changes to her life since appearing in The Campaign and how she hopes to continue to inspire other women through her strength and story.

Have there been any developments or changes in your life over the past 2 years since we last spoke with you?

JC:  “My daughter Isabella is now a senior in high school and looking at colleges, and my son Max is now a freshman in high school. When I look at them and how amazing they are, I’m very grateful to be healthy so I can continue to witness their growth as individuals.”

How has your relationship with David, and the rest of your support network developed since being diagnosed?

JC: “My relationship with David has always been strong and has continued to grow since I was diagnosed. We try to be mindful, kind and loving to each other and not sweat the small stuff so much…we’ve really made an effort to prioritize alone time together. I’m not really someone who likes to talk on the phone so much, but since I was diagnosed I definitely have found myself calling my parents, in-laws and rest of the family with more frequency.”

Have you kept in touch with any of the doctors or nurses who you came to know during your treatment?

JC: “Currently, the person that I continue to see is my breast surgeon. I love seeing her! When  I go to my appointments, just her mere presence brings me a sense of calmness.”

Around this time 5 years ago, you received the news about your Stage 1 diagnosis. How has your outlook grown or changed as you look back on this difficult time?

JC: “Before I was diagnosed I never got sick, so I was more cavalier about my health. Since I was diagnosed, I have a much better appreciation that breast cancer can affect anyone at any time, even if you are taking care of yourself. I take my health more seriously. I exercise very regularly and try to eat in a more healthy manner. I also try to get enough sleep. I’ve learned to really appreciate the present moment.”

Was there any aspect of the holidays that provided you with comfort as you had just learned of the diagnosis?

JC: “Honestly, when I learned about my diagnosis, the greatest source of comfort for me was David and my children…I can’t say that the holidays provided me much comfort at the time.”

Can you tell us about some of your favorite traditions and what’s important to both you and your family during the holidays?

JC: The two most important holidays for me are Thanksgiving and Yom Kippur. I can say that since I was diagnosed and treated, these two holidays have even more meaning for me. I love that on Thanksgiving our family and friends gather and we have an amazing meal together. Each person says what they are grateful for, a tradition that started after I had my surgery in October, 2011. Yom Kippur allows me time to evaluate on how I have been and what I have done in the previous year. I reflect on how I can continue to improve to be a good person for the coming year.”

What are you most thankful for this holiday season?

JC: “I am most grateful to have a healthy family, and the fact that I am lucky enough to be here to share the holidays with my family.”

What advice (both personal and professional) would you give to someone who was going through what you experienced 5 years ago?

JC: “It is extremely important to take care of yourself emotionally and physically. If you’re having a difficult time, reach out to your partner, family and friends in general.”