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Sonia Benavidez

Sonia Benavidez is thankful to so many people: her sons and daughter who inspired her, her mother who was with her during every step of her recovery, her church, the neighbor who offered daily reminders that she wasn’t alone and the Harris Health staff who cared for her.

Gratitude wasn’t always her go-to emotion. When she was first diagnosed with cancer, she was depressed and cried every day. She didn’t think she would make it.

Sonia first felt her tumor when it was the size of a grain of rice. She didn’t pay much attention, thinking it was a rash or a bite. When it began to grow, friends from her native El Salvador told her it might be caused by chemicals in her hair dye. She knew she should have it checked out, but without health insurance, she didn’t know where to go. She had a mammogram at The Rose and was referred to El Franco Lee Health Center.

By this time, the tumor in her right breast was the size of a lime and stage IV.

“Every time I heard the word ‘cancer,’ I cried,” she says. Her two sons were teens, and her daughter was 11; her daughter especially needed her, so she decided to trust God and begin treatments. After a second mammogram at Smith Clinic, she began chemotherapy at Ben Taub Hospital, had a series of radiation treatments and surgery.

She’s become an encourager. “I meet a lot of people with cancer who are depressed. I pray with them and remind them to find faith in God. Have courage. The treatment is hard, but we can get through it. We shouldn’t get depressed with the diagnosis. This illness is psychological as well as physical. If we feel we can overcome it, we will.”

Throughout her care, Sonia felt supported by her Harris Health team. She says the doctors and nurses treated her like family, and she’s especially grateful for the financial assistance that made her treatment possible.

“Encouraging others helped me feel stronger. Now I have more courage to confront situations and feel blessed that God gave me longer to live.”