What's Up South Texas!: Stage 4 cancer survivor raises awareness about 'silent killer'

By Japhanie Gray - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - One San Antonio woman who has always dreamed of giving birth has had her life rocked by ovarian cancer. Now, as a survivor, she is passionate about sharing her story to raise awareness.

Rae Ann Reyna, 37, has always been very fit and active in life.

“I was doing mission trips in Columbia and Ecuador working with street kids,” said Reyna. “It was an awesome experience being there to help out as much as I could.”

But knowing a BRCA gene-mutation was in her family, she decided to have herself tested 10 years ago. Having that mutation increases the chances of a person contracting breast and ovarian cancer.

“I know my mother carried the gene mutation, but she took preventative measures,” said Reyna. “So I say I had a cancer scare and decided to see for myself, just to step in front of any possibilities.”

When she learned that she, in fact, carried the gene mutation, she took the steps she needed to take.

“In 2015 I had a double mastectomy to be preventative and I went through reconstruction for six months,” said Reyna.

It was something that affected her deeply.

“I have always been fascinated with the idea of having kids and breast feeding and beautiful connection and how miraculous that is and having to make a decision,” said Reyna.

Little did she know, her world would be rocked again.

“I remember the doctors were telling me because of my age, I should go ahead and get my ovaries removed,” said Reyna. “It wasn’t surprising, because I knew it was a possibility, and I think you just kind of hope for the better part and when you get the news, you are, like, 'Crap.'”

She decided to have her eggs frozen and be preventative by monitoring every six months.

In August, things took a turn.

“I went in for a checkup and they were telling me everything looked fine, but then they wanted to do a CT-scan just to make sure,” Reyna said. “Then she came back and said they found a tumor on my uterus. (I) was ready to go into surgery and all of that, but because I knew what this could mean, I wanted to get a second opinion.”

So she got a second opinion, and at that point, her cancer had progressed.

“Majority of the information out there is saying ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer because once it is detected it is normally too late,” said Reyna. “At that time, the tumor had spread to my stomach so I had masses on my abdomen.”

She now had stage four cancer.

“What do you do with that? I think for the longest initially, as a woman who wants a family but doesn’t want to die,” Reyna said. “Like I had been given the choice of bearing this or death. Then you think, ‘Hey, like do I have two years to live? Do I have five years to live? It is just a wave of heaviness that just pulls you down.”

Doctors decided to put Reyna through chemotherapy instead of going with the surgery right away.

“It has been an emotional journey but amazing in the sense to where I just know people have been praying for me,” said Reyna. “I didn’t get sick, I didn’t have to go through the pain many others go through with chemo so I was very grateful for that.”

She began to lose her hair.

“It was frustrating,” Reyna said. “I was mad but at the same time I was like I’ve always wanted to know what I was like being bald so let’s do this!”

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She began to spread awareness in a positive way by doing #WigWednesdays.

“It started with my nieces wanting me to wear wigs they’ve picked out and then it went on from there,” said Reyna. “So I thought let’s do fun wigs that I wouldn't do otherwise.”

At the same time, Reyna continues her work for her church as the director of a prison, human trafficking and homelessness ministry.

“Yes, my problem is big but there are still a lot of other things that are happening to other people that you can be a help in making their lives better,” said Reyna.

Miraculously, Reyna’s latest CT-scan showed no tumor on her uterus.

“I was like, OK God,” Reyna said. “Was that your answered prayer? Is this one of your miracles?”

She was then cleared for an operation where doctors removed what remained of the tumors in her body. She said though she still has to go through more rounds of chemo to make sure all unseen cancer cells are gone, she is grateful to keep parts of her body that may lead to carrying a child for nine months.

“I just want others out there to know, it is OK to feel hopeless,” said Reyna. “But just know there is still hope. I have my good and bad days and sometimes I need those days where I need someone to let me cry and let me be honest. I am a faith-based woman so knowing that God is listening, even though it may seem impossible, he is still in charge and can make the impossible possible.”

Reyna’s next step is recovery to be healthy, but as she works to start her own family, she hopes to foster children as well. In the meantime she said she will continue to raise awareness for others.

“No matter what, go get yourself checked out,” said Reyna. “Even if you think the doctors will look at you funny, just do it. Take care of yourself and do not wait.”

If you know someone like Reyna who is making a difference in the South Texas community or who has a unique story, send us your tips. Contact Japhanie Gray on Facebook or @JGrayKSAT on Twitter. You can also send your tips to KSAT 12 & KSAT.com on Facebook.

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