Over the course of three years, Josue Perez's Zumba class, a fast-paced aerobic exercise class that features movement inspired by the Latin American dance style, is where 27-year-old Flor Sanchez found comfort. Mrs. Sanchez could be found at Tyler's Glass Recreation Center three times a week participating in Perez's Zumba classes.
"Flor had been a loyal student. She was always in my class," said Perez, a certified Zumba instructor at Glass Recreation Center in Tyler.
Using the time in Zumba class as a stress relief, Mrs. Sanchez made it a priority to never miss a class. Mrs. Sanchez enjoyed not only the dancing part of the class, but the friendships she made while dancing.
During an early morning shower, Mrs. Sanchez felt a lump on the left side of her neck. She met with her doctor the following day.
"I felt like it was something serious and scheduled the appointment right away," Mrs. Sanchez said. "I had a bad gut feeling the moment I felt the lump."
After a CT scan, the doctor informed Mrs. Sanchez that not only was her lymph node enlarged, but she also had a 1.7 cm tumor in her right lymph node gland. On April 6, Mrs. Sanchez was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin's lymphoma and on April 10, after a biopsy, she was told by doctors she also had papillary thyroid cancer.
"Cancer changed my life … I was stripped away from everything I thought I was and was forced to rebuild myself from the broken pieces," she said. "I remember that day like it was yesterday."
Mrs. Sanchez had to undergo cancer treatments and chemotherapy. Her last chemo treatment was on Oct. 1. Zumba instructor Perez had developed a close friendship with Mrs. Sanchez through class participation and then her journey through life with cancer.
"We wanted to do something to help Flor with the money," Perez said. "She's better now, but that doesn't mean the bills are not there."
On Saturday Nov. 14, with help from Perez, Glass Recreation Center will hold a Zumbathon from 9 to 10:40 a.m. There is a $10 entry fee to participate and 100 percent of proceeds raised will benefit Mrs. Sanchez's medical expenses. Not only will there be Zumba dancing, but also a moment of prayer for her during the event, Perez said.
"She is a wonderful and beautiful young lady," Perez said. "I decided to do the Zumbathon for her because I know cancer treatment is not cheap."
Mrs. Sanchez said she has received an outpouring of support and love from her Zumba classmates and instructor during her treatments. She will attend the Zumbathon event on Saturday if her health allows it.
"It's been a very hard time in my life but I am grateful to Josue and to see how much people are there for me," she said. "It's been a push to keep going to win this battle against two types of cancer."
The Zumbathon will be held in the main gym of Glass Recreation Center, 501 W. 32nd Street in Tyler. Contact the Zumba instructor, Josue Perez, with questions at 903-266-0565.