Liliana Gonzalez is a 49-year-old woman who came to New Haven from Venezuela with her husband in 2016. They moved to be closer to their daughter, who is a student at the University of New Haven, and to escape political turmoil in their home country (they have applied for political asylum). Her husband works at a local restaurant, often working long shifts into the early morning to make ends meet. She is a freelance writer who worked as a journalist in Venezuela, but has mostly had unpaid jobs since relocating to the U.S.
Ms. Gonzalez does not have health insurance, so when she noticed a lump in her breast, she was hesitant to go to the doctor. However, she learned about Fair Haven Community Health Center (FHCHC) and decided to make an appointment. On January 25th, 2018, she saw a midwife at FHCHC who noted the mass on physical exam and ordered a mammogram. She had a mammogram on February 5th that showed an abnormality and a biopsy on February 9th that confirmed a breast cancer diagnosis. She was referred to PA-NH and enrolled in our Breast Health Navigation Program. Within three weeks of her diagnosis, Ms. Gonzalez completed breast cancer staging studies (including CT scans of her chest, abdomen, and pelvis, and a bone scan), had initial consultations with medical and surgical oncology, received genetic counseling and testing, and began neoadjuvant chemotherapy (i.e., chemotherapy given prior to surgery to shrink a tumor). After completing chemotherapy, she had a partial mastectomy and is now undergoing radiation therapy. She has also had several appointments with the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven’s Cingari Family Boutique, which provides support services to cancer patients to help them feel comfortable with their appearance during and after cancer treatment.
To-date, PA-NH has navigated Ms. Gonzalez to more than 75 appointments with no “no-shows.” All of her care has been provided free of charge through our Volunteer Provider Network, primarily through our relationship with Yale New Haven Hospital and the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven. Ms. Gonzalez has complied with all of her oncology care to-date and is responding well to treatment. She agreed to share her story and provided the following testimonial via interview with the PA-NH Program Coordinator. The interview was conducted in Spanish, translated into English, and excerpted below:
“I learned of Project Access from the Fair Haven Clinic after being diagnosed with breast cancer. I was devastated with the diagnosis of my illness. I live with my husband and daughter and we did not have the slightest idea of where to go for help and support. We do not have the means to cover the medical costs and we did not know how to deal with everything required by my cancer treatment. Feeling that I could receive help and financial assistance from Project Access gave me hope to live.
The Project Access staff are always attentive and willing to provide help and information. When I receive their calls to remind me of my medical appointments, they are always very kind and willing to guide me. I appreciate all of their support. I was able to see a doctor quickly and I am currently being treated at Smilow. Since enrolling in Project Access, I have received medical attention from an oncologist, a breast surgeon, many nurses, and other medical personnel. Everyone has been very nice and my experience with Project Access and my doctors has been excellent.
Without Project Access, I would not be able to pay for my treatment. Before knowing about Project Access, I found myself in an unsustainable state of distress thinking about the possibility of dying with a cancer that does not stop, instead it continues to grow and reproduce. My mood got better and I felt more hopeful about the future thanks to Project Access. The difference is immense – I am very thankful for Project Access.
I am a writer and journalist. I write for various media outlets in Venezuela and Connecticut. Currently I find it hard to write because of my health, but I hope I can get back to work.
From heaven to earth, thank you Project Access. My family and I feel confident, protected, and supported in this difficult stage of our lives. I am very grateful for all the staff of Project Access, as well as all the people and institutions that collaborate with this program to provide help to people like me who need medical care.”