“Watching a family member battle this disease is difficult because their loved ones often feel helpless,” Ayala says. “I knew right away this patient just needed someone to talk with, so I told her that she’s not alone.”
Even before her own breast cancer diagnosis five years ago, Ayala was an MD Anderson volunteer, splitting time between gift shop and coffee cart duties. These days she can be found working as a floor host and manning the book cart (turns out people really enjoy celebrity news magazines), both of which allow for a lot of patient interaction.
When she first started volunteering, co-workers and friends couldn’t understand why Ayala chose MD Anderson. They knew people with cancer and understood the realities of the disease. They thought it would be sad and depressing, she recalls.
“I kept telling everyone it’s different than they imagine because MD Anderson is a place of hope,” Ayala says. “People are so grateful to see someone like me, who once walked in their shoes, continuing with life.”
While each person has his or her own reasons for joining the volunteer ranks, all are united in one regard: serving patients and families.
As Ayala enjoys saying: It’s about treating patients like your own family.