A Personal Fight Against Breast Cancer For Women's Soccer
HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Andrea Rivera and Lilia House are the reason one another fight and play every day.
The Southern Miss soccer team’s game on Friday against Old Dominion is a special day for Rivera, a senior on the soccer team. Not only is it her second to last home game in Hattiesburg, but it is also Breast Cancer Awareness Day, a cancer her mom, Lilia, was announced free of on May 17th of this year.
Six years ago, House’s doctors found a mass after an ultra sound, which would start a long list of doctor visits and biopsies. After the initial biopsy came back negative, House’s doctor requested to see her in six months. In September of 2011, House’s mass made a significant growth, but yet again, her MRI results came back negative. House was instructed to go to an oncologist in order to have the mass removed but became frustrated with the numerous tests that were being run for negative results.
“I was so mad because I didn’t think it was necessary to go through with all of this, but she was the boss at the time so I listened to what she (her doctor) had to say,” House said.
House’s doctor’s instincts proved to be right. Four months later, the oncologist told House that they had found cancerous cells in the mass.
“I was in so much shock, I couldn’t process anything,” House said. “I made them call my husband who had to tell me what was going on.”
The cancer cells in the mass were small but House would need another surgery to remove the rest of the infected area where the mass was. But house still hadn’t told her son and daughter, Andrea, about what was going on.
“I reacted bad at first because I was angry that she didn’t tell me,” Rivera said. “I started crying more out of fear than anger if anything. I tell people that I was angry but more than anything I was just scared for my mom.”
House’s second surgery was scheduled around Christmas time, which was a reason House kept her diagnosis a secret. Once she told her family about the cancer, she scheduled the second surgery where the doctors found more infected tissue that resulted in another surgery a week later.
The doctors originally categorized House’s diagnosis as Stage 1 but after the fourth surgery, which resulted in the removal of the majority of her lymph node in her left arm, the doctors categorized it as Stage 3.
House originally was told she would need chemotherapy in order to keep the mass out of her body, but after an oncologist in California studied the cells, House was told the results tested negative. House received radiation and took chemotherapy in pill form for the safety precautions and had a mammogram every six months to ensure the masses weren’t returning. After three years of continuous check ups, the doctors reduced the visits to once a year and in May of 2017; doctors told House she was cancer free.
Rivera and House kept a positive mindset over the years. The idea of cancer and the thought of what her family would do without her outweighed the fear of the numerous surgeries she went through. Rivera never let herself think something bad was going to happen because of her mom’s cancer.
“I always knew she would be OK,” Rivera said. “You could just tell the excitement she had when the doctors told her she was officially a cancer survivor.”
Friday’s game is just another game for Rivera but it has special meaning knowing that her mom will not only be in attendance, but cancer free.
“It was very important to me to be there because it is Andrea’s weekend and it being Breast Cancer Awareness Day because I can say I am cancer free,” House said.
The Golden Eagles host ODU who are currently third in Conference USA. The Monarchs travel to Hattiesburg on a three-game win streak.
Friday’s game is scheduled for kick off at 4 p.m. at the Southern Miss Soccer Complex. Fans can download the new game day app for live stats, score alerts, and free live audio by clicking here.