Karmina Barrales - Portrait of an AYA Cancer Survivor
After aggressive chemotherapy and surgery to remove her ovary, Barrales, now 32, has been cancer-free for nearly a decade.
Karmina Barrales says she named her daughter Natalia Guadalupe because she prayed to the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe to make her a mother if it was meant to be and, if – as an ovarian cancer survivor – she could conceive.
Barrales has had a long journey to motherhood. As a 22-year-old student at California State University, Chico, she noticed strange symptoms in her abdominal area, but didn’t follow through with testing because she had no health insurance.
Fast forward a year or so, and the symptoms and pain increased enough to send her to the emergency room, where she had a vaginal ultrasound. Doctors found a tumor and ultimately diagnosed her with stage 3 ovarian cancer. After aggressive chemotherapy and surgery to remove her ovary, Barrales, now 32, has been cancer-free for nearly a decade.
As a young woman and newlywed, her initial diagnosis was devastating on two levels – for the possibility of her not surviving the cancer and the possibility that she could not conceive. Barrales says she and her husband were at peace with the idea of adopting children, but still tried for three years to conceive. Barrales endured a miscarriage and the couple were about to give up trying when – without the help of fertility treatments – they conceived Natalia, now 17 months.
"She’s our little mascot for the National Ovarian Cancer Network," says Barrales.
Barrales credits her husband, Antonio, as much as her doctors, for saving her.
"If it wasn’t for Antonio driving me, I wouldn’t have shown up for chemo," she says.
The cancer and treatments solidified their bond as husband and wife, she says. Now Barrales is raising their daughter, working on her master’s degree in education, and with the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, guiding others throughout diagnosis and treatment.