In July 1999, concerned about a sore spot under her arm, Rhonda Hill saw her doctor. She learned she had stage IV breast cancer.
“There was no excuse for me not having regular mammograms,” Rhonda says. “I had good insurance. I was just young and stupid. Now I’m the poster child for them. I have a large family, and I tell all the women to schedule a mammogram.”
Within days of her diagnosis, she was enrolled in a chemotherapy program that lasted four months. She had surgery and started a regimen of radiation and chemo. When it was over, she breathed a sigh of relief.
The relief was short lived. In 2008, doctors discovered her cancer had metastasized to her lungs. Another round of chemo kept the tumor from growing. Now the cancer also is in her brain, causing seizures and affecting her short-term memory. If she talks for a long time — when she teaches Sunday School, for instance — her speech slurs, and though she knows the right words, it’s hard to get them out.
“God made me a superwoman, so I stay busy.” She volunteers at church and keeps up with four grandchildren. She encourages others who are sick.
Rhonda speaks highly of Harris Health Ben Taub Hospital and Smith Clinic, where she receives her care. “It is excellent. I’m going to get a shirt with the hospital’s name on it so I can spread the word. The Infusion Center nurses are wonderful.
“I meet young women in the waiting area who think their life is over. I tell them it’s not. I tell them not to listen to bad stories from other people. Not everyone reacts the same way. And besides, they’re getting the best care possible.”
Rhonda’s largest recent hurdle was the death of her sister, Lisa, with whom she had lived 90 percent of her life. Even as she grieves for her sister, Rhonda is optimistic about her own outcome. “I’m going to live until God is ready to take me home. I do what the doctors say and stay encouraged. I’m going to help others go through this. It’s a fight — and we’re going to win.
“I plan to have a long and happy life. I’m going to live long enough for my grandchildren to take care of me.”