Del. Muñoz recovers from cancer surgery
Del. Rachel Muñoz (R-Anne Arundel) recently became one of an estimated 35,000 Marylanders who will be diagnosed with a form of cancer this year.
The 36-year-old Anne Arundel County mother of five children — the oldest age 10 and the youngest who turned 1 on Monday — announced her cancer diagnosis April 20 on her Twitter page, where the post was viewed more than 36,000 times.
After the cancer was discovered by a doctor at an unrelated appointment a few weeks ago, Muñoz gave an update on her condition last week to Maryland Matters.
Maryland Matters: What type of cancer were you diagnosed with?
Muñoz: “I was diagnosed with just a stage one melanoma. It was not super life-threatening, but it was unusual because it’s on my right hip in an area [where] you don’t get any sun exposure. I found out on [April 18] and scheduled my surgery the following Tuesday. I wasn’t having any symptoms. We learned about the diagnosis more and more. People can get melanoma and can take someone’s life in six weeks. I got upset with myself. What did I do? Was I too stressed out? Did I not eat right? I had to realize no one can blame themselves for getting cancer. It was an accidental discovery. It was definitely an unexpected blessing.”
MM: You talk about your children often. What did you and your husband tell them?
Muñoz: “When I went to [get] the biopsy, I had a band-aid. I told my kids, ‘I have my boo-boo here’ so they wouldn’t bump into it because it was very sore. When the time got closer [for the surgery], I told them, ‘Guys, I’m going to the doctor and going to take out this boo-boo here on my hip. [We’re] going to take it out and put some bandages on it and it will be all better.’ That’s how we framed it for them. We don’t want them to be in a state worrying about mommy. We just didn’t feel like that was something they needed to go through. Let them be normal and happy and smiling. That’s one of the things that keeps me uplifted going through this.”
MM: Does cancer run in your family?
Muñoz: My grandfather died from [lung] cancer. My father had a very serious battle with cancer in his 50s. He was diagnosed with leukemia. I’m just looking at my husband and hope [the children] get DNA from you. Making jokes is a coping mechanism. I’ve had a lot of fun complaining about the scar. It’s like 10 inches along my hip. Hopefully next week I can get stitches removed and can see what the next steps are.”
MM: During the just-passed legislative session, the General Assembly unanimously passed House Bill 815, which requires health insurance carriers in Maryland to provide coverage for breast and lung cancer diagnostic studies and establishes a cancer screening awareness program in the Department of Health. The bill’s sponsor, Del. Diana Fennell (D-Prince George’s), is a one-year cancer survivor after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
MM: With legislation such as House Bill 815, can health care policy help constituents and can the government be able to help in that process?
Muñoz: “Absolutely. Besides being someone that has that big C-word next to me for the rest of my life, that [bill is] preventive medicine. That’s what our focus should be. So much of what American modern medicine these days is treating symptoms and cutting out chunks of people’s bodies when it’s gone wrong. We can have those tools, if we can make it the norm, if we can encourage, incentivize and really support people getting these screenings done. Then we are going to see a lot less deaths and a lot less stage-four [cancer] stories.”