COVID-19 Doesn’t Frighten this Cancer Warrior

Submitted by Valeria Lopez, Community Health Educator

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the whole world went through a lot of changes. Our vulnerable communities were at most risk. People started getting sick, losing jobs, struggling to get food, or to find sustainability to keep up with their daily life/routine. We were all forced to stay home, establishing physical and social distance, and the mental health of many went into freefall. Through all this process, Esperança was also forced to change its ways. We had all to adapt to this new system of “stay home, stay healthy, stay connected.”

Although we had to make a lot of changes to our programs and the way we deliver information, the goal remained the same; bring hope, provide health, and transform communities. Since then we have been creating videos on different topics that could help our community stay active, delivering hygiene and personal care items to different sites, and calling our seniors to check up on them.

During these calls, we recognized seniors who needed to be heard, who were desperate at home feeling anxious or depressed trying to keep a positive attitude during these times, and who were very grateful for receiving these calls. However, there was a senior from one of the clinics we had served, that was going through a tough process. She had been diagnosed with cancer a few months before the first contact was made, and since that first call we had a strong connection. Although she was going through a hard time with the pandemic going on and her diagnosis added to her plate, she had the most positive attitude I’ve heard during the past months. She was also saying how blessed she felt for the actions we were taking to keep in contact with them, and since the first time we talked, we’ve been keeping our conversations on a weekly basis to show some support, and her gratitude and attitude has remained constantly uplifting.

It was last month during one of our calls that she mentioned she had an appointment with her doctor to see how she was doing; they had performed some tests to see if there was any good or bad news. The next time we talked after that doctor’s visit, she explained that her doctor told her that her cancer had progressed; more exams were needed to be done, and a possible surgery was required. Since then, I knew our calls needed to last a little longer, and that I needed her to know and to believe that she was going to be alright. Of course, I was not sure about that, but I know for a fact that there’s nothing that better supports our immune system that a positive attitude, and the determination to be ok. I knew that part of my mission was to stick to Esperança’s main goal, provide hope.

Since day one, she had always transmitted a positive attitude, even when she learned that she had to go through surgery, and that’s a life lesson. Due to her great attitude, and the stories of how she raised her children during tough times, she was nominated as “the best mom in the world” for our Mother’s Day activity. She is a great example of a warrior.

Her surgery was scheduled to take place on June 29, and we just hope everything goes well. On our last call, two days before the surgery she expressed how blessed and how grateful she was for having Esperança’s support. She promised to call us back once she’s recovered and feeling well.

Although there are some limitations to the current situation, Esperança's team has been motivated and determined to do whatever we can to help our community and our people in any way we can. Working with the community at a nonprofit is one of the most rewarding and gratifying jobs there can be. We not only work with and for the people, but we also get the opportunity to learn from them.