After being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, Liana Curbelo put her job and her dreams on hold. She fears her family will lose the apartment they rent monthly in West Palm Beach, and she fears her 3-year-old daughter will be robbed of her normal childhood.
But Liana always smiled in the face of misfortune. Even now, she finds reasons to be grateful.
She survived childhood poverty, made a life in America, survived an abusive relationship and provided for her mother and daughter on her own.
And she is sure that with a little help, she can be her ultimate challenge.
Liana’s life began in Amarillas, Cuba. Her father left before she was born, and her mother’s health left her unable to work. Liana and her grandfather had almost nothing after the economic crash that hit the country in 1991. Buying soap, cooking oil and other everyday items – if they could find any – drained their monthly savings.
Liana remembers the time when she only had an egg for dinner, while her grandfather had a little ham. He gave her the meat and insisted she take his share.
“He always wanted the best for me,” Liana said.
When prostate cancer took the life of her great-grandfather, 7-year-old Liana became the head of her family.
Liana, 31, smiled as she recalled her childhood experiences. It was hard, she said, but the hardships brought everyone closer together.
Her grandmother lived in the United States and sent money to Cuba. Her neighbors in the Amarillas became members of the extended family, sharing tomatoes, oranges, pears, limes, coconuts, and coffee plants from their home gardens.
Liana found strength in her ability to overcome obstacles. She also begins to realize her life’s passion: helping others.
“My life was very difficult when I was born, but I’m here for a reason, right?”
A tough new life in America
As a teenager, Liana and her mother moved to the United States in search of a better life. The American dream was not easy.
I worked nearly 100 hours a week to support They both split their time between a makeup factory and a medical supplies factory.
Liana, then a student at John I. Leonard High School, arranged her work schedule around the school. Sleep became scarce and her feet ached constantly.
But her savings, and her reasons for smiling, only grew.
Liana’s grandmother sheltered her and her mother during their first year in the United States. The grandmother also drove Liana – who didn’t have a car or licence – to and from work and school every day.
Through hard work, time, and a little help, Liana achieved financial independence, which allowed her to rent a home for herself and her mother.
“Everything hard in my life has made me stronger,” she said.
“It’s my heaven.”
Life once again tested Liana’s fortitude in 2018, when she met the man who subsequently abused her.
“That was it,” she said, pointing to a chip in one of her front teeth—the chip she later took to hide, smiling often and turning away from the photographs,
But this relationship—one of her biggest challenges yet—gave Lyanna her greatest gift: a baby she named Sky.
“Because it’s my sky,” Liana said. “She is my whole world.”
Liana escaped abuse. And whenever she talks about her daughter, Liana smiles again—wider and prouder than ever.
Liana had sudden health complications
Sky would prove to be an asset to Liana through her latest hurdle.
After feeling a lump on her body, Liana learned she had stage 3 breast cancer in June. I froze in disbelief.
How could such a short life be filled with so much struggle? How could she possibly have cancer, she wondered, when she felt better just weeks ago?
“I’m going to die,” she remembers thinking the day after her diagnosis. “I really wanted to say goodbye to everyone.”
Liana can no longer work as a certified nursing assistant for the elderly, which makes it difficult to support her family, and halts her dream of becoming a full-fledged nurse.
She can no longer ride Sky to Chuck E. Cheese, her favorite weekend getaway. And the mother struggles to afford to care for her daughter, at least protecting Skye from Lyanna’s suffering.
Liana manages a range of medications and side effects. she Turned to sell Everything she can to pay the bills – a TV, her jewelry and even toys that Sky has outgrown.
And through it all, Liana is smiling.
Liana has overcome the sense of doom that followed her diagnosis. Heaven gives her the energy to keep fighting, she said, and Lyanna’s faith in God gives her hope for a better tomorrow.
She had to fight – for her mother and her daughter, and for her dream of one day working in a hospital.
“I was born to help people,” Liana said.
Wish Liana Curbelo
Since being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, Yana Curbelo’s top priority has been ensuring that her daughter and mother have a stable home. Without help, Mother fears Sky will spend her childhood in motels. Her family needs $65,000 to buy a manufactured home. Liana could also use the help buying her daughter gifts for Christmas. And with medical bills piling up, Liana struggles to deal with her car payments, electric bills and other daily expenses.
Nominating Agency: Families first from Palm Beach County.