Ask Olga Rosas how she is doing, and her answer will be, “I’m here.”
It is a simple phrase, but one with deep meaning for Rosas, who has worked since 1997 as part of City of Hope’s communications team.
Once burdened with an advanced, aggressive form of breast cancer, Rosas beat the disease with the help of City of Hope’s doctors and nurses. The experience has inspired her to reach out and help others — by sharing her story, acting as an advocate for those facing cancer and volunteering to staff City of Hope’s annual fundraising walk for breast cancer programs.
|Olga Rosas performs strengthening exercises with occupational therapist Belinda Torrez. (Photo by Alicia Di Rado)|
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.
Initially shocked by her early-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.’”
Rosas received intensive treatment, which lasted almost a year and a half and also included surgery, hematopoietic cell transplantation and radiation therapy. This regimen fought back the cancer.
Her gratitude 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 sort of mentor for other City of Hope patients, encouraging the newly diagnosed to tackle their own battles with strength.
Rosas has volunteered at the Los Angeles Walk for Hope for more than a decade. The best part: watching the ranks 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, there is one item at the top of the list: the chance to spend time with Adan, Noah and Allie, three grandchildren born since her recovery.
She is thankful to all of her colleagues at City of Hope — but particularly the members of the Pink Carpet Club, faculty and staff who raise money for breast cancer research, treatment and education programs through Walk for Hope.
“They leave me speechless,” she said. “You want to have these big arms, just huge, and embrace them all. Or stand on a hilltop and say, ‘Thank you. Thank you for my life. Thank you for working so that I could see these three gifts come my way.’”
Five years cancer free, Rosas considers herself living proof of the impact of City of Hope’s research.
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.”
For information about Walk for Hope, visit www.walk4hope.org.