“When I was first diagnosed, I thought I’d treat it like chicken pox,” said Rodriguez. “They would just deal with it and then I’d be done and get on with my life and back to normal. But it’s not like that at all. Your normal has to adjust.”
Rodriguez underwent a mastectomy, radiation, chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery over the course of two years after she was diagnosed. She still visits the oncologist every year and takes the estrogen modulator Tamoxifen every day. She will likely be on the drug five more years.
Experiencing cancer has changed Rodriguez, but it’s not necessarily bad. Fighting to live led to a tremendous shift in her perspective. The little things are no longer quite as concerning. Her empathy for others has increased and there’s a deeper appreciation for every part of life.
“My feelings are so much more raw and exposed now,” she said. “I am more open to how people are all connected and how we can help each other through pain and joy. I wouldn’t want to go back to how I saw the world before cancer.”
Rodriguez decided to use her talent for singing to benefit others struggling with cancer. Together with Nancy Higgins, a pianist who also experienced a loss to cancer, Rodriguez hosted a Christmas concert and released a CD, and arranged for all the proceeds to benefit the Samaritan Cancer Resource Center. The concert raised nearly $10,000 that went directly to helping patients.
“I am at a place where I’m just so grateful,” said Rodriguez. “I feel like the luckiest girl ever. It was important to me to give a gift back, from my life to others.”