Self breast exams were routine for Maria Adame, but for some reason, she was reluctant to have a mammogram. Her doctor at Harris Health Aldine kept insisting and finally included an order with other tests. She gave in and had the exam in July 2003. There was a problem. Successive biopsies indicated stage II cancer.
“They said it was aggressive,” she says. “I told them, ‘That’s okay, I’m more aggressive.’ That was the beginning of a beautiful journey. I walked with God.
“I like what Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.’ Each day is a gift to be cherished and shared.”
Once her diagnosis was confirmed, Maria’s treatment happened quickly: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation — all at Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. She can’t say enough about the care. “The doctors listen to you. They give you their time. If I could choose any hospital, it would be LBJ. The staff are the nicest people.”
She believes her husband, Albert, is the world’s best caregiver. It was his presence every step of the way that convinced her to become a Pink PEN, a Personal Experience Navigator who encourages patients. “I see so many people come to the clinic alone. I’ve seen women who are by themselves when they get the news. They need someone to hold their hand.
“This is my ministry. I touch so many people. I tell patients not to think about death. Cancer is only a disease. Fight it! I’m a talker, but I also like to listen. That’s where I can make a difference.”
Maria has plenty of advice to share. About facing the day: Do what you have to do today. About anxiety: Slow down, quiet down and listen to your thoughts. About sharing: You’re sitting in a waiting room, chat, make friends. About the future: Don’t give up.
She compares cancer to boxing. “You fight. You have blows and punches, but you don’t throw in the towel. You fight.”
One gets the impression that there aren’t enough hours in the day for Maria. She and Albert are always busy. They swim, walk, camp. He fishes, she reads. Through life, as through cancer, they walk the journey together.