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Oklahoma City agency has success helping Hispanic women survive breast cancer

BY HANNAH COVINGTON Modified: June 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm •  Published: June 23, 2013

Making treatment easier

Fear of doctors and the medical world often hinders many Hispanics from seeking help.

“Historically in minority populations most people know women who have died of the disease, but they don't know many women who have survived the disease,” Dooley said.

The language barrier poses another hurdle.

“It's very scary to communicate with the doctors for some women,” said Celia Hollis, coordinator of the Latino Agency's women's health programs.

Conversations between Hollis and women at the agency after doctor visits often go like this:

What did the doctor say?

I'm sick.

What do you have?

I don't know. I didn't understand.

For this reason, the agency often sends translators to accompany women to their appointments.

“They don't know about the prescriptions, the treatment, the follow-ups, and in the system they often don't have anybody to help them, especially women who are not documented,” Hollis said.

For Garcia, finances and finding a suitable doctor stood between her and treatment.

Mammograms can cost about $200 for uninsured patients, Hollis said.

So Hollis helps women like Garcia schedule appointments and get coupons to pay for breast cancer screenings through Oklahoma CARES, a program sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for low-income, uninsured women under the age of 65.

“When I see other Latina ladies that have cancer, I say to them, ‘Don't worry about it. You are in good hands,'” Garcia said.

Garcia tells them she is a survivor, which doctors believe is exactly what they need to hear.

Grateful for mornings

After having surgery in 2005, Garcia lived in remission until the cancer came back in 2009, this time in her right breast.

The doctors told her it was Stage 3. Breast cancer has four stages, with the higher numbers being more advanced, according to the National Institutes of Health.

But surgery once again proved successful.

“Each morning, I say, “Thank you, God,' because I see the sun again,” Garcia said.

She relishes mornings spent in her garden, checking her fruit trees and watering her tomato plants.

When the unripe tomatoes become blushed and swollen in July, Garcia will make pico de gallo for her children and grandchildren.

She recently found three new lumps in her left breast, but she tries not to worry too much.

Hollis and the agency have already booked her an appointment for June 28.

Garcia said the help of the agency has been lifesaving.

“If I do not come here, where could I go? This is the place they support me,” Garcia said.

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