Taking care of people is part of Barbara Garcia’s make-up. A caregiver by profession in a nursing home, she was so busy taking care of others, she sometimes overlooked her own health.
Looking back, she says, “I was strong, but I should have taken better care of myself.”
In 2014, swelling in her left breast was so severe, she couldn’t overlook it. She saw a doctor at Harris Health System’s Ben Taub Hospital, and was referred to system’s Smith Clinic for a mammogram and biopsy. She was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I wondered, ‘Why me?’” she asked of her diagnosis. “There’s no cancer in my family. My mother is 98 and still healthy.”
Garcia had a mastectomy of her left breast, and six months later, surgery to remove her right breast. Eight sessions of chemotherapy caused her to lose her hair, but other side effects, thankfully, were slight. She had radiation therapy daily for a month and continues a light chemo regimen.
Edmund, Garcia’s husband and primary caregiver, is always with her. He encourages her and pushes her to be strong.
“You have your life,” he says. “You’re breathing, so there’s hope. We’re thankful every day for our blessings.
“We’re blessed to have the best doctor,” Garcia adds. “If we don’t understand something, he explains everything. Now my lab work and scans are good. The rest of my body is very healthy.”
Her experience has her advocating for others to take responsibility of their health.
“I encourage people to be careful and check their health,” she says. “We only have one body and we must take care of it.”
The couple looks forward to a schedule that isn’t dictated by medical appointments and treatments. They’re eager to visit family in the Philippines.