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Komen Connection: Orisel Bejaran On The Importance Of Being Your Own Health Advocate

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A surprise breast cancer diagnosis proved to be no match for a young Washington Heights woman.

Now, she's using her experience and positive energy to encourage other women to listen to their bodies and be their own health advocate.

CBS2's Vanessa Murdock introduces us to Orisel Bejaran in today's Komen Connection.

The sound of a bell ringing is the sound of victory over chemo for Orisel. It's understandable why her big smile transforms to tears of joy and relief.  Ringing the bell signals she's on the road to remission from breast cancer.

The beautiful moment was recorded in June of 2019 - a little over a year after her diagnosis.

"The whole world stops for you, and I remember the first thing I said to him still was, 'Can I go on vacation in two weeks? I still have to go,'" Orisel said.

With a spirit brighter and more bold than her yellow tank top, Murdock was not surprised Orisel took that vacation to Europe.

Then, it was back home to Washington Heights where her tribe awaited to offer strength and support on each step of her journey.

"We all have our tribes, but to have my mother be the leader, the chief of my tribe, that was a big one for me," she said.

Her mom, Martha, is also a breast cancer survivor.

"She gave the best advice," Orisel said.

Now she offers this advice to other women:

"You gotta check your boobies," she said.

Be proactive. If you feel something is wrong, advocate for yourself.

"Particularly in a society where I was raised, where we are Latinos, I'm Dominican, I know that this happens a lot in the Black community, too, talking about disease is very taboo still," she said. "Self-advocacy saved my life."

"Komen has absolutely changed my life," she added.

Orisel attended her first Sisters for the Cure brunch last year. This year, she was a speaker at the event, which focuses on addressing disparities in diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in African-American women.

"I love people and I just want to make sure that I leave the world a little better than I found it," she said.

Next month she celebrates her cancer-versary.

"Two years, two whole years," she said.

Her smile says it all: Two whole years cancer-free.

Celebrating its 30th year, the Susan G. Komen Greater NYC Race for the Cure takes place virtually starting Saturday, September 12th.  Orisel and her mom will be participating and cheering everyone on. For more information, CLICK HERE.

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