Graduates of CNM: Amanda Herrera
Amanda Herrera will graduate from CNM with an associate degree in Pre-Health Sciences with a Pre-Nursing Concentration this May.

Graduates of CNM: Amanda Herrera

After receiving high-quality care during her cancer treatment, Amanda decided to become a nurse
April 02, 2018

In May, Amanda Herrera will graduate from CNM with an associate degree in Pre-Health Sciences with a Pre-Nursing Concentration. Next, she hopes to enter nursing school here or at UNM. Herrera, 46, chose nursing because she wants to help cancer patients just the way the Presbyterian oncology nursing staff helped her nearly a decade ago.

It was 2010 when Herrera was diagnosed with breast cancer. That changed her life immediately, but things went from bad to worse when a doctor who was inserting a chemo tube accidentally punctured one of Amanda’s lungs and the membrane around her heart. To fix that problem Amanda was rushed through emergency open-chest surgery.

The recovery from the surgery was grueling, but she still had to receive chemo to fight the cancer. All along, Amanda says she was attended to by nurses who were not only medically helpful, but also kind.

“The level of care was incredible,” she says.

Out of the hospital, the difficult recovery continued. Amanda and her husband had a new baby boy to care for and she struggled to hold him with her wounds.

“It was so bad I don’t really remember my son’s first year,” she says. “I missed his first words, his first steps, and generally lived in pain and a haze from the chemo.”

One trick Amanda started using to move forward was a refusal to dwell on the long-term prognosis. She wouldn’t let herself worry about whether the cancer would come back, or whether she was going to die. Instead, she just focused on the immediate future; her next doctor’s appointment; the next day; her next goal, like being able to hold her son, or walk around the block.

“I didn’t shy away from what was going on in my life,” she says. “But I refused to be scared.”

Eventually, Amanda got better and was able to return to work in the casino business where she’d been for over a decade. But back at work, something was off. She liked the high pay, but found it harder and harder to watch people lose their money while gambling.

She needed a change, and thinking back about her hospital stay, she decided nursing was next.

Giving up a steady job was hard, and continues to be, but Amanda dived into college. She’s juggled classes, a work-study job, and her role as a mom successfully, and now she’s just months from a degree.

Her own character and motivation have been key, but Amanda says CNM has made coming back to school not only easy, but approachable.

“I never felt like I was going to drown here at CNM,” she says. “Even when life would get in the way of my college work, everyone was understanding and encouraging.”

Amanda is realistic about what comes next. She knows nursing school will be hard, and that she’ll still have to juggle school, family, and money. Nonetheless, she says cancer gave her a clarity that helps her through.

“I eventually came to the realization that I could not be here, and that’s motivated me to think hard about what I want to be doing in life,” she says. “And what I want to be doing is helping people.”