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Walking in the shoes of cancer patients, survivors, families, friends

May 12, 2011 at 12:12 a.m.


Have you had a chance to walk in someone else's shoes? I'd like to know. Feel free to call me at 361-580-6504 or email me at jrortega@vicad.com.

I would hate to say I'm one of the lucky ones, but I am.

No one in my family has had cancer.

Even then, the devastating disease is like a poison, seeping through the vein of society, affecting each and everyone.

Many times has that poison run through my veins.

From talking to people with breast cancer to the tough interviews with a family who has a child with leukemia. I've heard their stories, seen their tears, felt their sadness, smelled their fear, but I've never tasted that poison. I've only been close enough to have it flow through my veins with the rest of society.

In some morbid sense I'm lucky to be able to try on those shoes and walk, even if it is just for a stroll around the block.

That moment is like no other.

I learn quickly this stroll is no stroll at all, instead, it's a slow crawl with a stack of bricks on my back.

In all candidness, I feel so much pressure realizing that these families, these people, are entrusting me with their life story.

I've paid heed to a woman who ventured back to the thoughts running through her mind when she had to decide whether to save herself or save her twins - she had ovarian cancer.

I've sat in at a round table discussion and listened to women talk about the arduous reflection they feel they see everyday when they look in the mirror, a woman who has lost her femininity - a woman with breast cancer.

Luckily for many Victorians, the Crossroads has such a great support system for many diseases. Seeing people turn out left and right for awareness events always makes me smile.

Most recently, I watched hundreds of people walk from dusk to dawn at the Victoria County Relay for Life, a big event with one message - cancer is real.

These people all take a walk in these shoes and it's something I recommend everyone do - it will make you a stronger person with a better understanding about being alive.

Each of them has a reason for being there, from the person with the disease to the 16-year-old girl who has a friend who knows a friend whose cousin has the disease.

The poison runs deep.

Most times I can't join in on these events because I'm usually the one covering them, but any chance I get, I make sure to do my part to help in the global efforts for any disease.

However, the moment really hits home when you witness those intimate moments firsthand.

My closest encounter was when I watched 2-year-old Joshua Hughston, who I've been writing an occasional series on, receive chemotherapy for childhood leukemia.

For him, that was life; you could tell in how calm he was as he helped the oncologist nurse inject the drug, which in a nutshell is poison.

For me, that was real. I could tell in how mystified I was as the red gelatin inched its way toward his tiny veins and also mine.

Yes, the poison runs deep.

J.R. Ortega is the Advocate's health reporter. Contact him at 361-580-6504 or jrortega@vicad.com

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