Army veteran who overcame cancer struggle while serving gifted new home

Former Army Staff sergeant Mylee Cardenas and her daughter, Brianna, got a new, mortgage-free home Tuesday from Building Homes For Heroes.

“I’m going to cry,” said Cardenas. “There are absolutely no words. I’m so grateful. It’s been a long journey.”

It’s a journey that took Cardenas to Afghanistan as part of an all-female cultural support unit that was able to talk to Afghan villagers who wouldn’t talk to men.

“And we were able to engage with 100% of the population,” she said. “The men, the women and the children.”

But while in Afghanistan, Cardenas kept something to herself - something she discovered on her breast.

“I found a mass and I thought it was just something from being out there and dirty or whatever, and I didn’t think anything of it," she recalled.

But she also thought that her mission was too important to compromise.

“My mentality was that if I left my teammates that I would have to leave too. So, I didn’t want to go back early and not finish the mission,” she said.

As it turns out, it was a costly delay.

“That was in November and I stayed around until March. By that time, they diagnosed me with stage 3 breast cancer,” said Cardenas.

The joy of their new home follows many surgeries and treatments, the price Cardenas paid to complete her mission.

The four-bedroom, three-bath home on a quiet street in Lutz may seem large for a single mom and her daughter, but recently in her job as a caseworker, Cardenas fell in love.

“There were three siblings that touched my heart and so hopefully we’ll move forward with adoption,” she said.

It will be a new challenge for Cardenas, but her next mission begins with joy, preparing her new home for a growing family.