Yamile Luna: Lessons Learned Through Cancer Journey

Posted on: October 20th, 2021

Women Are Incredible! An AdventHealth for Women Series

Yamile Luna is like most of us – career driven, loving mother, devoted wife, community advocate – but her journey with cancer has taught her some important life lessons about success and self-awareness. It makes her acutely qualified for her role at AdventHealth as Vice President for Organizational Culture and Well-Being.

Her responsibilities include leading the wellness team for the Central Florida Division, which encompasses 16 hospitals, medical offices, Centra Care facilities and AdventHealth University. “I oversee employee wellness from the benefits side all to way to programming that we do on our campuses,” she adds.

Yamile at the 2021 Orlando Women’s Conference. Photo by Victoria Angela Photography

This includes caring for AdventHealth employees in mind, body and spirit – from connecting them with chaplains and nutritionists to more importantly and most recently, mental health services. “Through the pandemic, it’s obviously been a huge toll on the mindset of our employees. We actually have licensed mental health practitioners as well as our wellness teams out in the units,” she explains.

Throughout her 37 years with AdventHealth, Yamile has held multiple leadership roles. “I tell people I started when I was 5,” she laughs. But she explains that she is proud to be a second-generation team member – both her parents retired from the company – and now her daughter and son are third-generation employees. Oh, and her husband has been with the company for 38 years as well.

 “What has kept me with AdventHealth is our mission. Our mission is to extend the healing ministry of Christ and it very much resonates with my personal beliefs. It’s easy to be authentically yourself every day when you come into a place that is more than just a job,” she says.

She appreciates the team members she’s gotten to work alongside – many who stepped up during her battle with breast cancer. “I was diagnosed in October of 2012. I was actually leading the [Florida Hospital] Cancer Institute at the time, along with other areas. It was a very surreal experience because of the work and programs we were setting up to help other community and team members,” she shares.

Her mammogram revealed a stage III aggressive tumor in her right breast and Yamile opted to have a double mastectomy. She then went through chemotherapy (hair loss included), radiation and reconstruction. “I was out of commission for about a year, but being the superhero that I thought I was, I continued to work. I remained as a vice president but worked part time,” she explains.

About 10 months after she returned to work full-time, she started having severe headaches. She thought she had a brain tumor, but it was actually a tumor that was wrapped around her heart and in the middle of her chest. Determined inoperable, Yamile went through another round of chemotherapy, a new experimental treatment for this type of tumor. “I told people the good news is I knew what was going to happen and the bad news is I knew what was going to happen,” she says.

“I did decide in my second go around that I would take the time off. I learned from my first time that while I was trying to be all things to all people, I recognized that the bad days were spent with my family – I was sick as a dog, and they would care for me – and the good days I spent at work. And I was like, there’s something wrong with this picture, right? I love the fact that I was able to step back and put my family first,” she says.

Yamile shares that she continues to receive chemo treatments on a regular basis and feels very blessed to be in this position where she can affect others with her story. As a speaker at the Orlando Women’s Conference, she elaborated further on her journey as well as provided some practical takeaways for women to better care for their minds, bodies and souls.

“Even when our careers are on the rise and we feel like we can do everything, we’re not superheroes. We think we are, but we must make sure that we are not only taking care of ourselves but realizing success is more than just a title at work,” she reflects.

What is a women’s health navigator?

A health navigator is a specially trained registered nurse whose job is to make life easier for each and every woman through expert clinical assistance and educational, emotional and spiritual support. All calls are confidential; anyone can self-refer; and insurance is not required to talk or meet.

AdventHealth for Women’s health navigators provide complimentary services that help you coordinate your overall care and answer any questions you may have. These services include:

  • Finding a care provider
  • Answering your health care questions
  • Assistance with scheduling annual office visits and screenings
  • Resources and support for you and your family
  • Coordination of care among multiple providers and facilities

To contact the Health Navigation Team, call 407-720-5191 or visit HerHealthNavigator.com