The scarf that keeps on giving
Maria Luisa Gonzalez, an avid runner and Chicago school teacher, had just finished a 5k race in Puerto Rico when she felt a small lump on her left breast. Gonzalez made an appointment to have it checked out, but as an active person who consciously makes healthy eating choices, she didn’t think much about it.
“At the time, I was focused on my race training. I also eat really clean and take good care of myself, so cancer did not even cross my mind,” she says.
After Gonzalez underwent a biopsy, she received the news: she had stage 2 breast cancer. She felt like the world stopped spinning, and all she could think about was her daughter and family.
She was referred to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, where Dr. Ann Mauer and Dr. Rosalinda Alvarado tag-teamed her care. After the physicians informed Gonzalez of her options, Gonzalez decided to undergo a lumpectomy with radiation and chemotherapy.
“Throughout my treatment, I always knew I was in good hands and that I could count on my team,” Gonzalez says. “The first few months of my diagnosis, I didn’t have to schedule a single appointment because the Creticos Cancer Center staff did it for me, and Dr. Alvarado and Dr. Mauer took the time to call me with my genetic test results as well as after surgery to check on my progress. Everyone – from the nurses to the valet and guest services staff – greets you with a smile.”
Gonzalez has been in remission since October, but her story does not end there. While teaching and running is part of her everyday life once again, Gonzalez dedicates more of her time to supporting other breast cancer patients at the Creticos Cancer Center.
“Losing my hair was a profound moment for me because it was the first time I realized that life would be different,” Gonzalez says. “When I received my first scarf as a cancer patient, it was such a meaningful moment. I threw a survivorship party after my treatment, and I asked my guests to bring scarves instead of gifts so I could donate them to the cancer center.”
Gonzalez plans to make these recurring donations a more formal endeavor by starting “Courage for the Soul,” an organization dedicated to collecting scarves for breast cancer patients.
About the Author
Jaimie Oh, health enews contributor, is regional manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Health Care. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has nearly a decade of experience working in publishing, strategic communications and marketing. Outside of work, Jaimie trains for marathons with the goal of running 50 races before she turns 50 years old.