For years Patricia San Pedro, 52, has been the rock to so many people. Now it’s her turn to lean on her Bombshell friends as she battles breast cancer, the same disease that took her mother at age 59.
For as long as she can remember, Patricia San Pedro played the role of therapist to five of her dearest friends, all overwhelmed by their own demanding lives. Though strangers to one another, each was at a crossroad, looking for advice from their friends, who often had some great insight to help them find their way up and out.
“It became almost funny because I would hang up with one (friend), and another would call me to vent,” says Patricia. “One day I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to introduce these women to one another so that they can see that they’re not alone.” So in April of 2001, Patricia invited those five Bombshells-in-the-making to come together to show them they were not the only ones feeling stressed by the struggle to juggle life’s demands. Her goal that night was to give Annie San Roman, Lydia Sacasa, Sara Rosenberg, Tammi Leader Fuller, and Mercedes Soler-Martinez a safe place to talk to a group of objective strangers, without being judged. In little time, that introduction blossomed into a monthly gathering, where these women shut off their Blackberries and began to disconnect and “drop bombshells,” sharing secrets while whining over wine and chocolate.
Five months after the Bombshells first assembled in Patricia’s living room, these women were nurturing new friendships and learning from each other about the importance of taking care of themselves. And then the world changed. September 11, 2001 brought turmoil to our country, and a desperate cry for help resonated from within. Patricia knew right then that it was time for these women to share what they were learning from each other.
So she proposed the idea of a Bombshell book, in which they could share their touching, shocking, bizarre, and hilarious stories. “They all laughed at me and rolled their eyes,” giggles Patricia. “’Who’s going to want to read our stories?” they all asked her. “But I just felt we might be able to help other women in the same way we helped each other. Today’s women feel like they are the only ones who don’t have it all together, but we’re all paddling upstream most days. It’s just not so easy to admit it.” In 2005, the Miami Bombshells (www.miamibombshells. com) published “Dish and Tell: Life, Love, and Secrets,” which somehow led to the creation of “Camp Bombshell,” back-to-nature women’s retreats tapped by NBC’s Today Show as one of America’s top Girlfriend Getaways. Seven years after their first meeting, the Miami Bombshells continue to be there for each other through breakups and divorces, children’s issues, caring for aging parents, business successes and devastations, and all of life’s ups and downs, including a cancer diagnosis. Now, the same women Patricia tried to save from themselves, have ultimately become her sole support system. “My wanting to help them translated into us wanting to help others, and now it’s come full circle,” she says, with a sense of gratitude in her voice. “I lost my mom and have no siblings or children, so my Bombshell sisters have become my real sisters. And they’re walking with me every step of the way.”
Last April, when Patricia was diagnosed with breast cancer, she began “this healing journey that all of us are on together.” Though she was admittedly sad and fearful the first few days, she let her mind shift, and began to walk to her talk after years of coaching others into peace of mind by repeating the mantra that everything happens for a reason. Surprisingly, Patricia claims the whole breast cancer thing hasn’t really been all that bad. She believes it’s the challenge she was gifted with in order to make room for the wonderful life she believes is waiting for her on the other side of this odyssey. And she is grateful. Her hair is almost gone. “But that will grow back,” she chuckles, “even if my breasts won’t”. They’re now under reconstruction after a double mastectomy, and Patricia is excited to soon be sporting “the size C breasts I’ve always wanted,” she quips, with a spark in her voice. “I really believe that this is happening to me so that I can help other women to see that we all have a choice about how we react to what life throws at us. Events have no emotions attached to them. It’s all in the way you approach them. If, for example, you crash your car against a telephone pole; your car is now a mess. That’s the event. It’s up to you to decide what emotion you attach to it,” claims Patricia, the eternal optimist. “We don’t normally think of it as a choice, but you can choose to be pissed or you can choose to think, ‘Maybe I needed a new car,’ or ‘Maybe this was a blessing that saved me from a huge accident a block down the road.’ We have a choice, and I’ve always said that, but now it’s very interesting to put it into practice as I face the rough stuff. Today, I have a little bit more confidence and validation in that belief.”
With five chemotherapy sessions under her belt, and another seven months of treatment ahead, Patricia swears she believes this experience is actually a blessing. For starters, she has never felt more loved. “I always wondered who would be here for me if I ever got sick. Now I know.” Patricia has been documenting her “sacred healing journey” with the hope of reaching women whose lives have been jolted, as hers was, by the dreaded breast cancer diagnosis. A little hesitant when she first strolled in for chemo draped in a pink boa with a video camera rolling behind her, Patricia’s medical team came to ignore the camera in the room. They are now doing their part to help her get the message out for early detection. “Just don’t forget to get checked,” Patricia says with conviction in her voice. “With today’s technology, cancer doesn’t have to be such a bad word.”
Patricia and the team administering her “sacred juice” are urging women to take precautionary diagnostic measures now more than ever, citing the various medical options available. Patricia’s doctors recommend alternating between an ultrasound and a mammogram every six months, because, as in her case, mammograms don’t always detect abnormalities in dense breasts. “The Buddhists have a saying, ‘Turn poison into medicine,’” says Patricia. “I