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January 17, 2020
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Nonprofit leader beats cancer

WATSONVILLE—Laura Segura has dedicated her career to combating domestic violence, and empowering victims to find within themselves the strength to end abusive relationships.

Now, the executive director of Monarch Services is back from a 54-week hiatus, having tapped her own inner well of strength to battle breast cancer. This included a bout with chemotherapy, major surgery and radiation.

Along the way she said she found support from her friends, family and colleagues, all of whom showed her unwavering encouragement that made her diagnosis, treatment and recovery possible. 

“I have had so much support from the community,” she said. “It is humbling that I have experienced such unconditional love.”

Segura, 52, said she received her diagnosis in autumn last year. Although feeling otherwise healthy, she told a doctor she found a lump in her armpit. A round of tests and a biopsy revealed the news.

“It was very surreal,” she said. “It was a shock. It was very very scary. Hearing the ‘C’ word isn’t something you think is ever going to happen to you.”

What followed were rounds of chemotherapy, followed by a bilateral mastectomy, and then radiation therapy.

She said she is exhilarated to be able to host family gatherings again, and is looking forward to return to running, which was a passion before her diagnosis. Her goal, she said, is to complete a triathlon.

Segura is also easing her way back to taking the reins at Monarch Services, having shared the role with a coworker.

“I’m glad to be back doing what I love, that is my social justice work,” she said. 

Kalyne Foster-Renda, the organization’s interim executive director, had high praise for Segura, and said her positive attitude during her treatment has inspired her coworkers to keep their spirits up.

“She is an amazing leader and woman and activist for our community,” Foster-Renda said. “She has always been an advocate for our community, and puts herself out there in a leadership way to represent people who are underserved.”

Segura said she knows the reality of being in remission: that the disease can return. But the advances in cancer treatment and the plethora of options available give her hope.

“You can’t let it define who you are, and you can’t let it consume your life, because it can,” she said. “I have more hope and faith now. I’m a very spiritual person, and I am going to rely on my faith to get through the rest of my life.”

Segura said she has one simple message for anyone facing a similar situation: “never give up hope, and keep fighting.”

“I appreciate the journey I just took, because I learned a lot of lessons along the way, and about the people around me,” she said. “I have a different perspective on life.”

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