I choose a place of caring
When Rosalba “Rosa” Valencia moved to Orlando in 2013, she expected to spend her retirement doing the things she loved – visiting with her sister in Clermont, dancing, working out at the gym and traveling. She had just gotten back from a trip to Colombia and then Spain, when a worsening pain under her right arm prompted her to go to her doctor. That appointment put her on a different path.
After a mammogram and ultrasound showed Rosa had stage-three breast cancer, her doctor referred her to Dr. Nikita Shah, an oncologist at Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center. Over the course of a year, Rosa’s treatment included a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. Having recently moved to Orlando from North Carolina, Rosa did not have much of a personal network of support to lean on during this time. She did, however, discover the Cancer Support Community at Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center.
Healing Support through the Cancer Support Community
Part of a global network, the Cancer Support Community at Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center serves cancer patients and caregivers in Central Florida with free programming to nurture mind, body and spirit. Offerings include a variety of support groups, healing arts classes and complementary health programs to help patients manage cancer symptoms, relieve stress and improve mental health. Cancer patients and caregivers receive support and education to regain control of their lives, reduce feelings of isolation and restore hope.
During her journey fighting cancer, Rosa enjoyed activities with the Cancer Support Community such as creative writing, painting, the choir, mindful meditation and yoga.
“I loved it. It really helped me,” she recalls. “The Cancer Support Community has been like my family. When I felt that I needed someone to talk to, the Cancer Support Community was there for me. They’ve given me a lot of love and friendship. They’ve been awesome, and I recommend the group to everyone who is dealing with cancer.”
Rosa appreciated what she gained from the community so much that she began volunteering to support its activities.
A Second Challenge Overcome
After feeling fine for three years post-treatment, a follow-up screening in January 2018 revealed the unfortunate news that Rosa’s cancer had returned and was metastasizing in her bones. After a year of chemotherapy injections, a PET scan showed that the cancer had not progressed, and Rosa was prescribed oral cancer medications. She is also receiving physical therapy as part of her multidisciplinary care plan.
Rosa is happy to be feeling better and living an active life again. She still enjoys being involved in the Cancer Support Community and is helping to compile a book of inspiring patient stories. She also participates in a Silver Sneakers exercise class three times a week at her local YMCA, and twice a month she gives chair dance classes. Other activities she enjoys include mall walking, going to the movies, and she’s looking forward to traveling back to Colombia to visit her family.
Despite what has been a challenging health journey, Rosa says her experience at Orlando Health has been “very, very positive.”
"For me, this hospital has been the best place,” she says. “Cancer is bad, but for me, cancer has also been good because I have found so many angels, so much goodness in people at Orlando Health. Sometimes when you’re healthy, you forget to appreciate the small things in life – you take everything for granted. And then when something like this happens, you start appreciating life more.
“Everything in your life changes when you go through this experience. You are not the same person. There are changes you need to make, such as what you eat, but you can still enjoy life. I try to enjoy life as much as I can.”
For me, this hospital has been the best place.
Cancer is bad, but for me, cancer has also been good because I have found so many angels, so much goodness in people at Orlando Health. The Cancer Support Community has been like my family.