Mind over matter
Attitude is half the battle. That is the mindset Georgiana Rodriquez, 54, of Albany has as she celebrates her 11-year milestone as a breast cancer survivor.
“While I may still take pause and quietly remember July 17 with each passing year, I made the decision early on to not let cancer consume me or to let it have all the space,” Rodriguez said.
Over the course of two years after her diagnosis in 2011, Rodriguez underwent surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and a complete mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery. With the cancer completely gone, follow-up treatment included regular visits with her oncologist and taking the estrogen modulator Tamoxifen every day for many years, which she completed just this year.
“I chose to embrace the beauty of life and celebrate the many other joyous milestones it has to offer,” she said.
Rodriguez shared, through tears of happiness, her gratitude for having the ability to hold tight to the many joys in her life — adventures with her husband Willie of 32 years, watching her son Timothy, now 25 years old, grow into an amazing human being and the many wet kisses from her puppy, River.
Music stirs the soul, helps others
With a passion for song, Rodriguez uses her talent for singing to benefit others struggling with cancer.
A few years back, she partnered with Nancy Higgins, a pianist who also experienced a loss to cancer. Together, the two women hosted a Christmas concert and released a CD.
All proceeds benefited the Samaritan Cancer Resource Center. The concert raised nearly $10,000 that went directly to helping patients.
“Nobody deserves cancer, but everyone deserves to have the resources to help them beat it,” Rodriguez said.
Now part of a musical trio, the River City Chicks, Rodriguez and her partners Nancy Higgins and Cheryl Leckie recently dedicated one of their concerts to benefit cancer patients.
“We are so fortunate for the good people of the community that joined,” Rodriguez said. “By the looks of the contribution jar, it was apparent that many gave more than the suggested $25!”
The trio have plans to hold similar concerts sometime in early 2023.
Value of the patient voice
When the Samaritan Cancer Program formed a Patient and Family Advisory Council for cancer care, Rodriguez was one of the first members to join.
“I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to serve as mentor to others who have been touched by cancer,” said Rodriguez. “So, when the advisory council was formed it seemed like a natural fit.”
Comprised of cancer survivors and caregivers, the cancer program’s advisory council, alongside staff from the Samaritan Cancer Program, discuss opportunities to improve the patient experience and ways to consistently achieve compassionate, patient-centered cancer care and improved outcomes.
“As a cancer survivor, I have firsthand experience,” Rodriguez said. “And it is hugely important to be able to speak up, be heard and share input from a patient perspective.”
Each Patient and Family Advisory Council member’s viewpoint is unique and having more perspectives is what makes the council so valuable.
Learn more about the Samaritan Cancer Program at samhealth.org/Cancer.