In conjunction with the recent 21st National Cancer Survivors Day celebration, the city of Oakley recently held its own Celebration of Life event, led by breast cancer survivor and Oakley Quest-for-a-Cure coordinator Lupe Linda Rios.
The event featured music, food and bilingual resource talks from the Women's Cancer Research Center (WCRC), a nonprofit group of volunteers and staff that encourage women with cancer to be active and informed.
When I was first diagnosed in 2002, I went through amastectomy, said Rios. I told God, If you give me life, I will help others.' After being cancer-free for 6 years, my oncologist called me last year and asked me if I wanted to help out and so here I am.
Among the event's younger participants was 14-year-old Eric Cabral, diagnosed with soft-tissue cancer when he was 5. When he was 10, a spot was found in his lung, leading to more surgery.
I didn't really know what was happening when I was 5, said Eric. But I lost my grandmother to cancer in 2001 and it hit me harder.
Now cancer-free, Eric sets his sights on achievement rather than limitation. He plays the trumpet for jazz and concert bands, and umpires for Little League games. He is also a Boy Scout, and raises funds for the annual Antioch Relay For Life.
I am still scared of hospitals, said Eric. I realize, though, that I'm not alone in this world, that there's always a person just like me.
Coordinating information, referral and support for Spanish-speaking cancer survivors was WCRC Patient Care Manager Alma Loos. Thirty percent of Contra Costa County clients are Spanish-speaking only, said Loos. They are mostly uninsured or not informed, and have difficulty filling out documents,
getting information from doctors, or just knowing about treatment. They get lost in the process. Every woman diagnosed with cancer in this country has a right to treatment.
If you're over 40 and a woman, get a mammogram, urged Loos. Public health clinics notify their clients when another free mammogram is due, so enroll and schedule one. If you are above 50, have your colon screened.
Contra Costa County Women's Health Services offers free mammograms, pap smears, breast exams, birth control and STD/HIV testing to all women who qualify. Call toll-free 877-616-8674 for more information.