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Breast cancer survivor helps other Spanish speakers

Network - Fall 2012

By Erica Quiroz

Eva Vega has one mission: To educate as many Spanish speakers as she can about cancer.

As the chair of Anderson Network’s 24th annual Cancer Survivorship Conference, held Sept. 14-15, her recruitment efforts were responsible for an impressive surge in Hispanic/ Latino attendees. There were more than 90 Spanish-speaking participants.

“I tell people about Anderson Network and the conference because I want them to have the same support I’ve received,” she says. “Patients at 
MD Anderson aren’t always aware of the available programs.”

Born in Mexico, Vega was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and knows how overwhelming the disease can be.

“I was very depressed after I received my diagnosis,” she says. “My doctor suggested that I go to a support group for Spanish speakers. I told him I would go, but kept putting it off.”

After rebuffing his suggestion several times, Vega finally went to a support group at The Rose (a non-profit breast cancer organization) and was amazed at the amount of information she received.

“Meeting women who were going through the same thing gave me a lot of confidence,” she says. “And that’s when I heard about the conference for the first time.”

Making a difference

With her newfound support system, Vega and friends from her support group jumped at the chance to attend their first conference in 2004. They’ve attended every year since.

With more Hispanics/Latinos attending, breakout sessions in Spanish were added to the conference in 2008. Vega says these sessions have benefited her group and other Spanish speakers enormously.

“We hear about cancer research and prevention in our own language,” Vega says. “Then we can go back to our families and share what we’ve learned.”

A member of Anderson Network’s steering committee, Vega is a walking advertisement for Anderson Network, a program of the Department of Volunteer Services that delivers supportive programs to patients, survivors and caregivers.
When it comes to their health, she advises patients to trust their instincts.

“We’re the ones who know our bodies. If there’s anything unusual, people need to see a doctor,” she says. “I caught my cancer very early, and I want people to know all the options they have to prevent cancer.”

Vega speaks to people she meets throughout the year in Houston, at her church, The Rose, Ben Taub General Hospital, Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital — even at the grocery store.

“I know that Spanish speakers don’t go to events like this for many reasons, so my main goal is to make them aware of this resource and increase their attendance,” she says.

“Growing up in Mexico, I never thought I’d face this disease, but it’s given me so much. I’ve met a lot of people, I’ve grown as a person and I’ve been able to help other women.”
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