A story of hope

By: Kathryn Tschiegg, Founder and International Director of CAMO

As years have passed, more and more is being done but often I am busy with meetings, staff management, writing grants and newsletters, finding solutions to problems or preventing problems from happening. It is a daily challenge to get medical care to a developing country’s population with 70% under-employed or unemployed can be overwhelming. So I seldom get to have hands-on experiences and see the result of the days, months and years of work that has been invested.

But I was honored to be a part of a simple yet life changing, moment. Mercedes in 1997 had made a bedspread for my bed in Honduras, during which time I shared with her CAMO’s programs, one of which was a breast clinic and #mammography program. Mercedes called me in March 2002; she had noted a change in her left breast and felt a lump. Her voice was panicked; she had been diagnosed with #breastcancer. I went to her home and we sat together and cried. I remembered the times I had been frightened by health issues, and I was thankful that God allowed me to feel this fear so I could better serve Mercedes at this moment.

On my return to Honduras on Feb 2, 2003, Mercedes had a left mastectomy with lymph node removal. It left her left chest and left armpit concave. She left a message for me at the Honduras office, requesting help to find a left breast prosthesis. I called the USA CAMO office manager Helen for help. Who just happened to be sitting there? None other than Marcia Murphy, a mammography technologist who would be arriving in Honduras with the CAMO team in three short days. Marcia went the extra miles to get the prosthesis from the American Cancer Society and arrived in Honduras with it days later.

Monday afternoon Bonnie Yoder Medina, Marcia Murphy and I made a surprise visit to Mercedes at home. I had made no promises to Mercedes so this was truly an unexpected visit. Mercedes was behind her sewing machine on our arrival. All of us were so excited about the prosthesis, we asked her if she wanted to see if it fit and to make a choice between one of the two that were given to us. We went into her bedroom and the transformation began. First timid as the new bra and the prosthetic breast was shown, she showed us her incision and then put the bra with the prosthesis on. As she turned to look into the mirror her expression changed to disbelief. She touched it; it felt natural. We encouraged her to try the second one on. She did, and as she did so, her eyes welled up with tears. “It feels normal, the same weight as my own breast,” she said. Again she looked at herself in the mirror. The tears were now readily flowing down her face and she started to share. “You see, I have not been able to go to the market. People know that I had the surgery and they stare at me,” she explained. “My clothes do not cover the fact that I have no breast. I have not felt normal until now.”

I looked at Marcia and Bonnie; we all had tears in our eyes. And as we left, I looked behind me and Mercedes was at her sewing machine surrounded by her friends. With a smile, she began unbuttoning her blouse to show her friends. I felt joy for her, and once again I thanked God for showing me why the days, months and years are all worth it.

True, it was amazing timing that Marcia happened to be visiting CAMO on that particular day before her trip to Honduras and was able to get the prosthesis. But things do not just happen in the world of CAMO; behind every story is a network of supplies, equipment and knowledge. And those supplies, equipment and knowledge are generously given by donors JUST LIKE YOU. Without our network, CAMO would have been unable to help women like Mercedes and the many women since who have faced uncertainty and fear in the face of breast cancer. You can give certainty and HOPE through making sure CAMO is there for these women. Give today

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