MIAMI – Christine Zahralban is relieved that the month of October is over. The pink wave brings painful memories of chemotherapy and multiple surgeries. It has been 11 years, but the experience of being a 39-year-old bald woman with scars, fighting for her life hasn’t left her.
Surviving breast cancer means that you have to learn to live with the fear that cancer could return and wreck it all again. Zahralban has found ways to cope that have allowed her to be of service for more than two decades at the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office.
She was last promoted about two years ago to Chief of the Legal division handling the most complicated issues and crimes in the area. She is also an active member of Christ Journey Church in Coral Gables where she leads the women’s ministry.
“I look at my chest every day in the mirror and I see the scars in the shape of a cross and that always reminds me that God took care of me,” Zahralban said, adding that her relationship with God, church members, and the support she gets from work colleagues give her strength.
In a message to women in the community, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle said she is proud of the way Zahralban continues to share her hopeful story with other women to raise awareness. Talking about breast cancer isn’t easy for Fernandez-Rundle either.
“This and every breast cancer awareness month, I think about my dear mother and sister who died of this horrible disease,” Fernandez-Rundle said. “I also think about those in my work family.”
The legal profession has changed dramatically. The days when breast cancer was not discussed at the SAO because the majority of prosecutors were men — are no longer. Women now make up over 60% of the Miami-Dade SAO’s lawyer staff.
“Women supporting other women is a key and we live by that,” Fernandez-Rundle said.
The power of October’s awareness month is evident in the improvements in survival rates and a deeper understanding of the disease. Some of the new medications have turned what was once a death sentence into a treatable chronic condition. There is a lot to be done when it comes to access to health care and screenings. Despite the awe-inspiring advances, women are still dying.
As difficult as the subject is for both Zahralban and Fernandez-Rundle, the two women have worked to support research and to help women who are undergoing treatment. Zahralban may not like to wear pink, but when she needs to, she said, she wears it with pride.