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Made in the 956: Valley woman speaks on remarkable journey to baking show

1 month 2 weeks 5 days ago Tuesday, June 21 2022 Jun 21, 2022 June 21, 2022 8:02 AM June 21, 2022 in News - Made in the 956

A Valley woman was recently chosen to appear on Chip and Joanna Gaines' new show, The Silos Baking Competition.

Dr. Lisa Pena grew up in Rio Hondo and graduated at the top of her class. She went to pharmacy school and married her high school sweet heart.

For more Made in the 956 stories, click here. 

"When I walked the stage for the first time with my doctorate, I was pregnant, about seven months pregnant with my first daughter," Pena said. 

The family came back to the Valley to start their lives with their baby girl — Isla.

"Not until she was about two, did we start to notice that there were really big things that were different," Pena said. 

And they left the Valley, looking for answers.

"We went to Driscoll's Children's Hospital. It was there they diagnosed her with autism," Pena said. "Eventually she would be diagnosed with intellectual disability."

They moved back to the Valley, continued treatment here and they had two more children.

"I knew that as a family, as a woman, my husband as the man, coupled as parents, we had changed, very, very much and so I decided to write a book," Pena said. "I didn't know how else to track all of the different things that had happened. I never intended to publish it. It was something for my family, my kids. With that book, the end year was supposed to be her first year back in public school. So, we start her in public school. It was one of the most traumatic experiences for us. We suffered a lot. I think that special education, in general, is a system that was never created correctly."

And then -- another unexpected turn.

"And it was about that time that I was diagnosed with breast cancer," Pena said. 

Lisa would go on to have a total mastectomy.

"Breast cancer stole a lot, but it gifted me time," Pena said. "And I published a book, sitting on couch recovering from breast cancer."

That led to the creation of the nonprofit Labeled and Loved, where women like Lisa could share their stories. Something else Lisa shared during this time was her love of baking with her children.

"This was probably the one thing we all enjoyed together, that we could all actually do together," Pena said. "And I just filmed them making certain desserts we always make and so it became this thing, and we were able to share it."

Pena said she's always been a fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines, and their show Fixer Upper. 

"It was also one of the first shows that my daughter Isla watched all the way through," Pena said. "So I started following it on social media, and then when the nonprofit Labeled and Loved was created, we were reaching out to a lot of different people for sponsorships and Magnolia actually sponsored us, which is a really wild Twitter escapade with Chip Gaines."

Lisa tried out and got accepted to compete on Chip and Joanna Gaines', the Silo's Baking Competition show. 

"I want to leave enough stories behind that create radical empathy and change when it comes to kids like my daughter. If I can use every talent, and every skill that I have to be able to not only sustain and make a living for that, but also progressive change, I think I would have fulfilled my calling for sure," Pena said. 

Dr. Lisa Pena: Made in the 956.

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