HACKENSACK, N.J. — The mark of a fighter is believing in something — according to Lettisia Aponte, a breast cancer survivor.

“I took it well initially,” said Aponte, “But then when I got home, it hit me.”

Six months after her diagnosis in 2019, she learned she also had ovarian cancer.

“It’s been a crazy journey,” said Aponte. 

Surrounded by a sea of pink at Hackensack University Medical Center on Monday, Aponte has hopes it will inspire someone to get checked out.

“Getting those women who neglect themselves to listen and see,” said Aponte.

A combination of her faith and her doctors, she said, allowed her to become cancer-free.

“The stat is 12% or one out of every eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime, which is a big number,” said Dr. Chris McGreevy, breast surgeon oncologist at Hackensack UMC. “With screening, detected early, breast cancer patients can survive an extended period of time after their diagnosis.”

Tech advancements are a huge part of that, including 3D imaging.

“This is a great advance in breast imaging,” said Dr. Gail Starr, Chief of Breast Imaging at Hackensack UMC. “We can see things that are hidden behind tissue. It’s a little bit like reading a book; if you look at just the cover of the book, you can only read the cover. If you start turning the pages, you can see what’s inside each page.”

Another recent advancement is smart curve paddles, which doctors say are much more comfortable for the patient receiving a mammogram.

Aponte, who works at the hospital as an ambulatory specialist, sends positivity to those in the fight.

“It’s just staying positive and knowing you’re going to get past this,” said Aponte.