Rosa Escobar: finding cancer support at Wellspring
Rosa was a busy 44-year-old raising three kids of her own and caring for many other kids at her much loved day home, when she began experiencing strange physical symptoms.
“It started with a headache that would never go away, and then I started noticing I was losing my hearing,” she said. “I went to emergency and they thought I needed some hearing aids, so I got some, but that wasn’t the problem. I knew something wasn’t right.”
Rosa underwent numerous tests and scans but nothing was detected. It wasn’t until eight months after the symptoms began that she found lumps on her neck. Within days of the discovery, an MRI told the story … Rosa was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma – a rare type of head and neck cancer that originates in the nasopharynx, located behind the nose just above the back of the throat.
“It was really devastating. I had been running my day home for 19 years and now what? I had to tell my families I was closing but I didn’t tell them I had cancer. I thought I’d get it looked after and then I’d be able to go back to work,” she said.
In the months that followed Rosa lost 75 pounds, and her life that was once devoted to caring for others, became consumed with treatment and self-care.
“I had 36 radiation treatments and chemotherapy too. It was really hard, but I was lucky to have lots of aunt and uncles and my in-laws close by to help. My mom took me to all my treatments and helped with the kids so my husband could keep working,” she said.
That was in 2019 and though treatment for her cancer was successful, Rosa is still not able to return to work.
“I really suffer with lots of side effects like fatigue, dry mouth, lymphedema, and even vertigo,” she said. “There are days when I’m fine and days when I am very down. The hardest part is that I haven’t been able to go back to work. That really bothers me.”
“I found out about Wellspring through the cancer centre and it has really helped me a lot,” said Rosa. “I found that joining Brain Fog gave me ways to feel more organized again. I use sticky notes to help with my memory,” she said.
With hopes of restarting her career, she signed up for Returning to Work and was relieved to meet others who were experiencing the same anxiety about what work would look like in the future. “It was very helpful to talk to others and know I’m not the only one who worries – I know I can’t do those full 8-hour days like I used to.”
Rosa also stressed the importance of Wellspring’s programs and services being offered free of charge. “When cancer takes away your ability to work, it really matters that all this is offered for free,” she said.
What’s ahead for Rosa, she is not sure, but she is grateful to be in remission and she appreciates the support of her family and Wellspring.
“I look forward to the calls I get from Wellspring (Peer Support). They check in to see how I’m doing and that really makes me feel good.”