Pictured above: David (L) with his siblings and mother

How does a child of six understand his mother’s battle with breast cancer?

“I wasn’t really understanding the severity of the situation,” says LSSNY Budget Manager David Salinas. “I remember her looking swollen. She lost her hair and finally decided to shave it. I knew my mom was sick but she was going to doctors so I figured she would get better. Finally she was in remission. All those prayers came true,” he says.

His mother was a waitress and didn’t have great health insurance. His father was undocumented, drove a truck, and didn’t have health coverage. The cost of breast cancer treatment was a large burden.

Two and a half years later, David’s mother was driving him and his sister home from a soccer game when she began screaming about pain in her neck. The cancer had returned, spreading to her neck and brain. It was inoperable. His mother did treatments for a year and a half. “And that’s when it really went downhill,” he says. “She was hospitalized for the last six months.”

David’s life changed once his mother lost her four-year fight with breast cancer. He was all of ten years old.

“After she passed, I was just angry at everything,” he says. “At my faith. At the doctors. It’s upsetting but I was even upset at her.” Her death had a cascading effect because David’s father “didn’t take it well” and left his three children with their mother’s sister. She had six kids of her own and now a blended family of nine, ranging in age from six to 17.

“I was with my aunt until I was 15. Then I ran away,” says David. “She wasn’t very good to me and my little brother.” David stayed with a friend’s family for six months, then miraculously ran into his maternal grandmother at church. “She saw me and we cried,” David recounts. “She said, ‘I don’t care where you’re staying, you’re coming with me.’ She raised me from age 15 to adult. She’s still alive now. She’s going to be 90 in December. We’re having this big shindig for her.”

David Salinas

The silver lining in this traumatic upbringing was that David became extremely close with his grandmother, and eventually reunited with his siblings as well.

“Breast cancer has affected me and my family so dearly,” he says.