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Laura Ayala

Back on the Pitcher’s Mound After Breast Cancer

When Laura Ayala learned she had breast cancer, she only had two questions: Was she going to lose her hair? And when could she get back on the softball field?

Laura, 51, had been playing the sport since she was nine, through middle and high school, then in adult leagues as a pitcher. It's not only what she does, it's who she is.

A breast cancer diagnosis wasn't going to derail her favorite pastime or diminish her passion for the sport. So, when she learned in February of 2014 that she had a tumor, later discovered to be the size of a peanut, she underwent a lumpectomy and was back on the softball diamond by the end of July.

"After my doctor called to tell me I had breast cancer, I decided I wasn't going to let this beat me," Laura said. "The play-offs were coming up."

Laura had always been vigilant about getting her mammograms and that year was no different, a consistency that led to early detection. She had been coming to Holy Name for her screenings and despite having moved to South Jersey, returned to the Teaneck hospital for her mammogram. Laura was diagnosed with early stage 1 breast cancer but because of the size and type of tumor, she needed four chemotherapy treatments and a 6-week course of radiation.

Laura credits Holy Name's medical team with not only keeping her calm but helping her get through a scary and trying ordeal with little pain or discomfort and a lot of hope. They repeatedly told her that even though a cancer diagnosis is scary, she would get through it.

She received the phone call that she had cancer while she was working. She hung up the phone and didn't leave work. Instead, she sat for a long time, and then went back to her desk.

"I had work to do and I needed to do it," Laura said. "And that's pretty much what I did through this whole thing. I did what I needed to do."

Laura admits it was difficult learning that she would need chemotherapy, which meant she would lose her hair. But once she adjusted, she was able to manage the treatment well. In fact, she really only had one bad day. She continued working, caring for her eighth-grade son and performing dozens of mundane tasks that make up everyday life.

That year, two weeks after she finished her last treatment, she made an appearance in a playoff game. She knew she wouldn't be able to pitch for a while because of the surgery, but she took right field. It just felt good being out there, she said.

By the next season, she was back on the pitching mound. Years later, she's still there. She returns to Holy Name twice a year for checkups.

"I've been to other places and they don't give you the time you need," Laura said. "It's worth the hour-to-two drive because when I leave, I'm satisfied they've answered all my questions and done everything they can to help me stay healthy. I trust Holy Name – the people there are like family."

Learn more about breast cancer treatment at Holy Name