Ask Olga Rosas how she is doing, and her answer will be, “I’m here.”
It’s a simple phrase, but one with deep meaning for Rosas, who has worked since 1997 as part of City of Hope’s communications team, the group that brings you eHope each month.
|Olga Rosas performs strengthening exercises with occupational therapist Belinda Torrez. (Photo by Alicia Di Rado)|
Once burdened with an advanced, aggressive form of breast cancer, Rosas beat the disease with the help of City of Hope’s breast cancer team. The experience has inspired her to reach out and help others — by sharing her story and acting as an advocate for those facing cancer.
After her 2003 diagnosis, Rosas quickly found solace in the steadfast support of her family. She determinedly went forward with what she calls “my journey.”
“My first infusion of chemotherapy, the staff had to move me because there were so many people who came to help me through this,” she said. “I looked at my family and thought, ‘They’re why I’m going to make it. They’re the reason I’m going to step through every door the doctors open.’”
Her intensive, successful treatment lasted almost 18 months and included surgery, hematopoietic cell transplantation and radiation therapy. Her gratitude for that success gave rise to a sort of personal mantra: “In my life, when people say, ‘How are you?’ I say, ‘I’m here. I’m here because of this place.’”
Having watched three of her aunts succumb to breast cancer, Rosas had long championed greater awareness of the disease. Her own journey redoubled that commitment. She now serves as a mentor for other City of Hope patients, encouraging the newly diagnosed to face their own battles with strength.
Rosas will be among the thousands attending the 2009 Los Angeles Walk for Hope to Cure Breast Cancer Nationally Presented by Staples on Oct. 25. She’s volunteered at the Los Angeles event for more than a decade. The best part, she said, is watching the number of walkers grow.
“In 1997, it was a circle of people. Today, if I stand at the very front row and look back, it’s endless,” she said. “All those survivors, all those supporters. And I think, ‘Look what research has done today.’”
Of all the things she is grateful for, one item tops the list: the chance to spend time with her three grandchildren, each born since her recovery.
Said Rosas: “What a blessing to know that this once-gripping disease doesn’t own my life anymore. It’s never going to own my life. I know that City of Hope is working faster than anybody to get this done. And I’m a testament to this because I’m here. I’m here.”
If you would like to join Olga Rosas, the coworkers who’ve embraced her, and the thousands of survivors, friends and families who walk to honor women like her and support breast cancer research, treatment and education at City of Hope, please visit www.walk4hope.org/la.