In 2017, I started having sharp pain in my breast and my primary care doctor referred me to the free mammogram van. The mammogram showed some inflammation and I was referred to Project Access to help me have more tests. I was told that everything was ok and to have another mammogram in a year. In 2018, I repeated the mammogram and this time they found something. I had a biopsy and was told that I had cancer.

After my diagnosis, I went into a state of shock. It felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders and my life was over; I wanted to give up. All my family is back home in Peru and I am separated from my daughter’s father. All I could think about was my young daughter growing up without her mom. I did not leave my house for days. I was in a dark place. My daughter could tell something was wrong with me, but she did not know what and I had no idea how to tell her.

I have a friend who became a sister when I told her about my diagnosis. She has been there for me and my daughter – she has taken me to appointments, cooked for us, watched my daughter so I could rest after treatments, and been a shoulder to cry on. She encouraged me to leave my house and face this challenge God put in front of me.

The staff from Project Access always has made me feel like they genuinely care about me and love me. They helped me get appointments scheduled right away after my diagnosis. When they call to remind me of appointments, they ask how I’m feeling or if I need anything else. I really appreciate those calls. I work part-time at McDonalds and sometimes with treatment, work, and my daughter, I would forget about my appointments. I feel like I have a personal alarm clock that will not let me forget. When they call me after my appointments, they care and take the time to listen to me. I do not know how I would have ever gotten treatment without Project Access supporting me.

The staff at Smilow has also been wonderful and so kind to me; everyone makes me feel so loved. In the last six months, I have had surgery and radiation therapy and I am scheduled to see my doctor in May to start Tamoxifen.

I have a new view on life. I feel loved by many people and want to enjoy every day and live it to the fullest. To anyone who is going through cancer, I would tell them don’t be afraid or try to hide. Talk to people and ask for help. Love yourself and your family, be happy and enjoy the moment, those memories will always be with you.  God has gifted us another day to live we have to live it to the max.

– Elizabeth Chalco, Project Access-New Haven Breast Health Navigation Program Patient