I met this beautiful Angel, who is also resilient, vibrant and now my friend, Maria. I met Maria while I was working at the Cancer Clinic where she received her treatment, back in 2016. Maria had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Maria managed to do what most of us, honestly, would be too embarrassed to do and that is to wear a colostomy bag (a bag that is used to collect feces from the digestive tract through an opening in the abdominal wall). Her bag would burst at any given moment and to me, it didn’t bother her, it was just a small part of her life. I witnessed several times that the bag would leak or burst in the clinic. It was nothing to her or her best friend, he was always there to just help her get it cleaned up. As time went by, I got to know her better, we would talk and laugh together while Maria was receiving treatment, on those “not so good” days, she would just sleep during treatment. But the one thing we have in common is our love of God, positive thinking and prayer, so I would always pray for her healing and strength. Eventually, Maria beat colorectal cancer and had the reverse surgery, so she didn’t need the colostomy bag anymore.
She is also a single mother of a beautiful, young, intelligent daughter. Her daughter took the time to educate herself about her mom’s disease and then helped cared for her. I would see Maria when she came back for her follow up checkups. She would always give me an update, things seemed to be going well and I would always give her best friend and daughter cheese sticks during these visits. Some more time had passed and Maria was doing well until one day, I saw her and she informed me of a new cancer diagnosis she was faced with, my heart just dropped, and I hugged her. Maria’s response was, with a smile, “I will be ok.” She had surgery, a couple of doctor visits, and then she was in remission.
Fast forward to 2017, I am still working at the Cancer Clinic. I only see Maria every once in a blue moon. I see her and she is smiling as always. She had a scan, and the results were in and she had been diagnosed with liver cancer. My thoughts were, could Cancer just give up? That was my wish for her. My friend had been through not just one or two, but now she has survived three DIFFERENT cancers. Really, how much more could her body take?!! Maria, however, the faithful and tough lady that I found her to be, didn’t allow it to slow her down or even think twice about what was, is, or what could happen. She never once spoke negative about her illnesses. She would just say, with a smile, “I will get through it,” and she does.
Not long after she beat the liver cancer, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Nerveless, Maria is always upbeat, smiling and taking care of her daughter the best way she knows how, with the help of her best friend. Not once did she stop doing what she knew needed to be done. Days where she was physically sick, she knew that she still had to be a mother to her child. So, she has never stopped fighting.
Once again, Maria survived cancer a fourth time. Maria is an awesome person, she still has a lot of life left to live, an angel walking amongst us and because of her and others that I’ve met, Kimberly’s Touch was founded. This was 2019, that Kimberly’s Touch was founded, and I asked Maria to join the Board.
We would all go to appointments with her, talk business, learning the process of overseeing a nonprofit organization. Things were going well for all of us until 2020. January 15, 2020 one of our own Board members gained her wings due to leukemia. January 15th was not only the day we lost our friend, but it is also Maria’s birthday. It was a day of so many mixed emotions. We were able to get through February okay, then in March, not only were we dealing with the worldwide pandemic crisis, the COVID-19 virus, but Maria was diagnosed with cancer for the FIFTH time. This time it was diaphragm cancer. I wanted to cry when she shared the news with me and she was STILL so positive, once again! This is the type of individual that Kimberly’s Touch needs. If you have survived cancer, you can provide the peer-to-peer emotional support, to be there for others when they need someone, someone that can relate. I smiled, and said okay, struggling to remain calm. But deep down inside, I wanted to scream and cry, but that would not had been the right thing to do at the time, so I chose instead to put on a brave face and be there for my friend and supportive.
Maria hasn’t worked since 2015. Just imagine how many others are going through a similar story. See you never know what another person is going through or have been through. If you have never walked in a cancer patient’s shoes, you can’t imagine what they have been through and are still currently going through. Her testimony is deeper than this. But this is only part of my story of how I met the Angel Maria and how we became friends. (Maria gave permission for her story to be shared).