When Patricia Rodriguez was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer following a biopsy in 2013, she was not sure how she would face the challenge. “It was overwhelming,” she said. “I cried a lot.”
Rodriguez was fortunate to have terrific support. Her son, Esteban, shaved his head in solidarity with his mom when she underwent radiation.
And her care team at NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens was there for her through every stage of her treatment, which included chemotherapy and a mastectomy. She knows firsthand what a difference support can make.
Cancer-free since 2015, Rodriguez is using her experience to help other Latinos fight cancer. “I was inspired to start a Spanish language support group when I realized how many other Latinos needed a place to express their concerns,” said Rodriguez, a native of Costa Rica. She noted that many concerns are particular to the immigrant community, like managing citizenship anxieties while coping with a serious illness.
With help from Linda Bulone, RN, a cancer center research nurse at NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens, Rodriguez started Grupo de Sobrevivientes Latinos Vida y Esperanza (Latino Survivors for Life and Hope). The group of cancer survivors and patients currently in treatment meets weekly at NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens to share a meal, make arts and crafts, and provide peer support. Ten participants attend the support group regularly.
“Being able to speak Spanish brings significant comfort to my patients,” said Dr. Benjamin Pace, who is chief of breast services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens and performed Rodriguez’s mastectomy. “It’s easier on the patient when they can speak to their caregiver in their first language.”
Rodriguez credits the moral support that she received from NYC Health + Hospitals for saving her life. “My world is totally different now. I eat better and I exercise. I’m focused on the future and all the things I can do to help my community.”
“We strive to provide care and support to help patients throughout their entire course of treatment,” Dr. Pace said. “And it all starts with routine cancer screening and prevention.” Dr. Pace encourages all women to have a conversation with their provider to determine the most appropriate screening for them.
Learn more about breast health here.
To find more information on Women’s Health services, visit Healthy Women = Healthy Communities site.