Following her yearly routine mammogram, 40-year-old Ester received the news no woman ever wants to hear – she had early-stage breast cancer.
A day care teacher at the Redland Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) in Florida City, Ester had three young boys to think of at the time and decided to opt for a double mastectomy. She knew it ran in her family – her aunt had been diagnosed with breast cancer and she didn’t want to take any chances.
At the time of her surgery, Ester was covered by her husband’s work insurance, but while she was in recovery and undergoing chemotherapy treatments, more bad news came her way. Her husband lost his job and with it, their health insurance. “It was difficult, but I had to continue with my check-ups,” she recalled.
Through a friend, Ester learned about Open Door Health Center in Homestead, a United Way-funded program. The clinic, founded by Dr. Nilda Soto, provides primary health care to the uninsured and underinsured, the homeless and recently arrived immigrants and refugees. Patients here receive medical treatment, screenings, and prescription drugs – all at no cost.
In her follow-up appointments, Ester recalls Dr. Soto always had words of encouragement. “I was doing chemo and had lost my hair, so had a scarf wrapped around my head, and she would say, ‘you’re beautiful’ – and since then, I’ve always made it a point to be all made up.”
It’s been 11 years since Ester’s brush with cancer and she continues to visit Open Door for her yearly screenings. She’s thankful for United Way’s support of the clinic and confesses that she makes her yearly contribution at RCMA’s United Way campaign to make sure others receive the help they need.