Rhoda Izuagba Okoli

Joy exudes from Nigerian-born Rhoda Izuagba Okoli, who has lived in Houston for 10 years. She is likely to sing in her native language; and she often dances for staff in the Infusion Center at Harris Health Smith Clinic.

In 2007, when she found a lump in her right breast, her doctor at Harris Health Vallbona referred her to Harris Health Ben Taub Hospital for a mammogram. When the test suggested cancer, she said, “No cancer,” and started praying. When a biopsy confirmed the diagnosis she still refused to believe it. Her doctor told her, “You can keep praying, but you have to get treatment.”

She waited several months before having a lumpectomy, and then began a year of chemotherapy and six months of radiation. “I prayed the whole time,” she says, “for the doctors and nurses, that God would work through them.” In 2009, she was declared cancer free.

A year later, it came back, this time in her lungs. She started another regimen of chemo that she continues today. She is doing well. “When I go to the lab for blood work,” she mentions, “it shows good blood.” She’s content that the cancer isn’t spreading.

Her daughter, Abigail Okoli, says Rhoda is always positive. And, in agreement, Rhoda bursts into song, “The joy comes from the Lord. He keeps me.”

All of Rhoda’s treatment has been at Ben Taub and Smith Clinic. Every Wednesday, when she comes for treatment, staff members put on music. They know she’ll create a party.

Along with the singing and dancing, she dispenses hugs and encouragement to other patients. She tells them not to give up. To pray. To believe. “Whatever you do, trust in God, the doctors, the nurses. God uses everyone here to care for patients.”

Rhoda has created a strong community in her family and church. She wants everyone to know, “Everyone is my family. I love everyone because God is love. I am blessed.”

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