New mom of twins battles cancer, credits newborns for saving her life
SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Her dedicated Facebook page is filled with a mix of "chemo selfies" along with adorable photos of wide-eyed newborn twin girls, and an ongoing stream of messages of love and support.
Bay Area native Lesli Salas, affectionately known to her friends as "Lu" is a new mother and cancer fighter.
Just 18 days before little Quinn and Rowan were born, Salas was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
The 42-year-old grew up in Daly City. In 2014, the clothing designer moved to Seattle for her job with Nordstrom, where the company is headquartered.
When word of Salas's diagnosis reached her Bay Area friends, they immediately launched into action.
Because of the distance, they felt limited in how they could help, but they knew they wanted to be there for their friend and offer her support in any way possible, says longtime friend Mike Fung of San Francisco.
So he and his wife Janice quickly set up a Facebook page they called #WeLoveLu.
On it, they wrote about how shocking the news of Salas's diagnosis was to their tight knit community of friends who were in the midst of preparing for a celebration in the arrival of the twins.
The Fungs added, "While Lu and Brenden have no immediate family in their area, they have wonderful friendships and an extended support network from the many lives that they have touched with their heart, soul, and creative talents."
And they put out a call for those near and far "to come together to help this family through the journey ahead."
That call has been and continues to be answered as Salas moves into the last month and a half of her chemotherapy treatment and then prepares for surgery and radiation.
"You've got this mama and looking absolutely gorgeous to boot!" wrote Janice Fung in a post that included a photo of Salas during a chemo session.
Many of the Facebook messages from her supporters carry the same theme, making reference to her strength and beauty.
But the fans being billed as Salas's biggest cheerleaders are the pair of twins whom the new mom credits for saving her life.
"I have so much to be grateful for. I would never have found out about the cancer if I wasn't pregnant... and they continue to be the best inspiration to get through everyday," she says.
Salas also says that the job of caring for Quinn and Rowan keeps her so busy that there is no time to worry about the cancer. "I feel like this would be harder to deal with without them," she says.
Her journey has been one that has deeply inspired those around her.
In a post, the twins' father, Brenden Clarke, calls Lu his hero. Describing her as incredible and inspirational, he details how she is dealing with the disease face to face, with a proactive and positive approach, as she does with everything else in life.
"Before the rest of us can even understand, before we've heard a hint of a complaint, she is already solving the problem... She then implements, tries, evolves, shares, and stays positive - she lets us know how we can help, accepts our short-comings and misunderstandings when they happen," Clarke wrote.
"The book she gave me last week (which she read in one day) is called 'Bald is Better with Earrings,' and is really helpful in understanding the cancer experience, for patients and loved-ones alike," he added.
Along with the #WeLoveLu page, friends also set up a communal playlist that people can contribute to, to help her through the long sessions of chemo.
Caring for newborns is straining enough. Caring for twins is double the work, if not more. But doing it all while undergoing cancer treatment is beyond anything most first time parents can even imagine.
So another way friends have offered support is by starting a fundraising campaign to help with the new financial responsibilities associated with caring for two new babies, which is especially difficult since Salas is on medical leave from work while she undergoes treatment.
Because of chemotherapy, the girls have had to feed on formula, which can get very expensive. Then there are the mounting costs of diapers.
Donations have also gone toward hiring a postpartum doula. "I didn't even know that was a thing!" Salas notes.
The ongoing help and words of encouragement have been received with deep gratitude. "...it's all been so generous and overwhelming. I don't know how to thank everyone enough for thinking of us and reaching out to help," Salas says.
While Salas has been the recipient of this groundswell of support, she in turn says that she hopes her story will offer support to someone who may be going through a similar fight.
"I found out that getting a breast cancer diagnosis while pregnant is more common than you might think but it can be hard to find a support group or community that can understand all the extra emotions you are going through," Salas says.
"If I can offer some support to anyone out there going through a similar scenario I think that would be a blessing," she adds.
As for her pint-sized cheerleaders, they are doing great, says the proud new mom. "Very healthy and growing so fast."
And in what the rest of her cheering squad would say is in true Lu fashion, she says, "I know I am going to be ok. I never had one doubt that this is just something to get through. I just look forward to this time next year when I am all done with treatment and I can focus on being a mom."
If you would like to donate to the #WeLoveLu campaign, her friends have set up fundraising accounts through the following services that allow 100% of the money to go directly to the family.
Venmo: @Lu-Salas Square Cash: $LuSalas