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  • October 30, 2023 6 min read

    Breast Cancer Survivor Tesha Ofelia Writes Her Own Next Chapter Through New Chapter, an Organization Helping Those Experiencing Homelessness

    Through her organization, New Chapter, Tesha Ofelia, her brother and the NC team are aiming to tackle and assist in one of the most urgent crises in the USA: people living with homelessness, especially in Los Angeles. At New Chapter (https://newchapterhf.wixsite.com/home), Ofelia is helping participants get back on their feet through housing, work and family assistance, and she found this work after working in fashion, and later, outreach programming.

    Of both Panamanian and Korean descent, the Inglewood, CA, resident, has also done important work in awareness and education in terms of breast cancer through her participation in The Fondle Project (thefondleproject.com), where she shared her own intense journey with breast cancer in a gorgeous, touching video. Below, she shares more about her passion for helping, how she dealt with her harrowing cancer experience and how she relies on positivity and boundaries to help her move forward now. Read on for more! 

     

     

    SBS: What was your professional path?

    Tesha Ofelia: ​​Before my non-profit organization, I worked in fashion. The fashion industry gave me a platform to express my creativity and also allowed me to help others find theirs, as well. While doing fashion, I was working part time with an outreach program for women. I fell in love with the mission and decided to take it on for myself.


    SBS: What was your mission in opening New Chapter, and how has it evolved?

    TO: Five years ago, my brother and I decided to help assist in ending the crisis of the unhoused in Los Angeles. Currently, we are helping 24 gentlemen re-enter into society, by housing, feeding and assisting them with reuniting with their family. We also assist with job searches. We plan on opening more housing across Los Angeles in hopes of housing as many people as we can. 

     

    SBS: What has the journey with the organization been like?

    TO: To make New Chapter a reality, I had to dedicate myself to something bigger than myself. It took financial sacrifice and a dedication of time and effort to study the ins and outs of the industry. The main challenge of getting the facility open was finances. It took an incredible amount of community support, and that is a year-round struggle.

     

    SBS: What has your journey with breast cancer been like? 

    TO: I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 37 years old. I remember thinking that my life was over. At that time I was not educated on cancer, so my automatic thought was that I was dying. I went into a deep depression for about a month, and I still battle with it here in there. One day I woke up, and I knew I had to fight for my life. And here I am, four years later and in remission. My journey with breast cancer was difficult, but when I look back, it was also a blessing. I went through 14 rounds of chemotherapy, 27 radiation treatments and 12 reconstruction surgeries, which were unsuccessful. Surgeries and treatment lasted about three years.  

     

    SBS: You mentioned that you first noticed a lump in your 20s and were consistent with imaging: What would you suggest other people in their 20s do in regards to breast health? 

    TO: You definitely have to be an advocate for yourself, and get second and third opinions. I trusted my one doctor for 14 years. However, I can only imagine if I would’ve got another opinion that my lump would’ve been removed earlier.


    SBS: What are some practices and approaches you found helpful while navigating your recovery and path?

    TO: Continuing to live life helped, as well as having a support system to help you laugh and trick your body into thinking it’s happy. Also, it’s important to get organized. This will help you with less anxiety and stress, and help you navigate life a little bit more easily.


    SBS: What has changed about your approach to health, wellness and work during your journey?

    TO: Since my diagnosis, I try to live life as much as I can, and create as many memories with my family and my loved ones. As hard as it is, I try my best to feed my body what it needs to survive. Gratitude and kindness are extremely important to me since my diagnosis. Every time I get off track of healthy living, I immediately try to remind myself to get back on track: Take your vitamins, eat healthier and move your body. 


    SBS: What self-care practices have been most helpful along your journey?

    TO: I’m still working on my self-care routine. But recently I was diagnosed with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, so with those diagnoses, I know sunscreen and protection are very important. 


    SBS: Your video on The Fondle Project was so moving and beautiful. You spoke a lot about self-advocacy: What tips and thoughts do you have for others struggling to be self-advocates?

    TO: I would advise going to doctors appointments with someone. That way, they can help you advocate, because sometimes it’s hard to remember everything, and sometimes you don’t want to feel like you’re second-guessing the doctor. But if you bring someone along, they can be your strength and your voice.


    SBS: You also mentioned you suffer from PTSD. What have you found helpful or important in dealing with depression and PTSD during your journey?

    TO: Therapy has helped me a lot with my PTSD. Meditation has been a healer for me, as well.

    I have affirmation reminders on my phone. Hugs and affection have also helped me with my PTSD. Embracing love has allowed me to be a little bit calmer. Also, removing all negativity out of your life, including people, is important. Set boundaries, knowing that your life is precious and you do not have time to be uncomfortable in your own skin or around people that do not deserve your presence. 

     

    SBS: What was your interaction with The Fondle Project like? What is so special about the Fondle Project?

    TO: The Fondle Project was special because you’re surrounded by women that understand your journey in life. They offered the support of beautiful souls coming together for one cause to help others and spread the word.

     

    SBS: What was it like filming your beautiful piece on the Fondle Project? 

    TO: Filming for The Fondle Project was empowering. It was so important because we built a bond and a community for those who are impacted by breast cancer. The awareness that The Fondle Project is bringing will heal so many women all over the world. It’s about awareness and spreading the word.


    SBS: How do you manage your business while dealing with such a challenging health experience?

    TO: I’m blessed to have a team of my brother, my sister-in-law and my wife. 

    There are times it gets very challenging because you have doctors appointments and you’re trying to run a business. But at the end of the day, it always works out. You prioritize. Do what you can to the best of your ability. 


    SBS: What are the most helpful things others can do (or avoid doing) for loved ones dealing with a similar issue?

    TO:: Avoid negative places or people, surround yourself with love, and remove all negative things from your life. For those wanting to help, help the person get organized, show up for them during a treatment or offer rides to treatment, spend time with them, and support them with  laughter.


    The best, zaniest part of being Tesha: I’m a motivating, loving, inspirational person. I love to speak to strangers and notice everyone I interact with, making them feel loved and seen.


    Tesha’s SBS Mantra: My mantra would be Be Fearless. Due to my 12 unsuccessful reconstruction surgeries I had no choice but to be fearless, show my wounds, be proud of everything I’ve been through and accept my body the way it is.


    Tesha’s LA Faves:

    Healthy Restaurant: Simply Salad
    Splurge Restaurant: Mama por Dior
    Yoga Studio: ‘Yoga with Adriene’ on YouTube
    Fitness Studio: A walk in the park
    Fun Activity: My wife and I have a monthly bucket list, so our activities vary. We use BucketListers.com as a guide to try out different things in Los Angeles.
    Calming Activity: Using a singing bowl, praying and meditation, along with affirmations.
    Online Resources: notputtingonashirt.org
    Books: Emotional Intelligence, 2.0  by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves 

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