Cancer showed Carmen Ramos Rescalvo that she could change her life. “I was stuck in a routine,” she says. “I was forced to see how I looked at things and make changes for the better.”
Carmen first felt a small lump in her breast when she was applying lotion. Over time, the lump got bigger, and her doctor ordered a mammogram and biopsy. He referred her to Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital where staff helped her with financial eligibility.
She had surgery in September 2008, followed by radiation and drug therapy. All her care was at LBJ, and she thanks God for the people there. “From the first day, they helped me with my paperwork, and they continue to help me. Everything was good. I have zero complaints.”
She is so appreciative of her experience at LBJ, that when she was asked to become a Pink PEN, she was eager to accept. Pink PENs are Personal Experience Navigators who share hope and encouragement with other patients.
It’s her job, she says, to lift people’s spirits. “If I came in sad, that would be contagious. Patients see that I’m a survivor. I tell them to have a lot of faith and to put their emphasis on life. The science is advancing quickly, so they should look at cancer as any other disease that has a cure. In the old days, that was impossible. But look around, there are many cancer survivors. Be strong.”
Carmen has a busy schedule. In Mexico, she was a private investigator, but in the U.S., she has put that career on hold while she improves her computer and English skills. She works as a security guard, takes computer classes and spends a lot of time with her family.
While a healthy diet is a priority for Carmen, she’s equally interested in “feeding her mind.” She learns about new topics from books, the Internet and relationships with friends, co-workers and family.
Every time she puts on her Pink PEN vest and talks with patients, Carmen is building more relationships. “Each time, I leave with the satisfaction that I’ve helped people, and they are happier because of me.”