Okay, great. Okay, I have a partner, I’m 54 years old, I’ve been in a domestic relationship for the past 11 years. My partner has been very supportive of me from the beginning and until probably the future. I was diagnosed- first of all it all started with a little bit, it was like a little mistake. I had kidney stones and I was sent to have lithotripsy which didn’t help. Later on, I was then asked, or told that I was going to need a surgery to remove my kidney stones. That happened in March. When I went to my urologist, he everything seemed fine and he was going to send me for a MRI from my waist down to see how my left kidney was functioning after the surgery.
When I went for my MRI, the technician was talking to another person there about where to have lunch and so forth, so anyway, it ended up that she made a mistake with, the lab order’s wrong and she put me a full MRI. The following week I had an appointment, March 18. I went again to my urologist and he asked how I was doing. I told him I was feeling fine; I have severe rheumatoid arthritis so I told him I was just a little tired, but other than that, I was doing fine and back to my same schedule. Then he told me, “Well, I need to tell you something. Your readings came up fine, your kidney function is great except for … I’m concerned about something that I saw in the readings.” He goes, “Obviously I had asked for this order for this type of MRI and the person that did it, I guess read it wrong and she gave you a full MRI, and there’s something there on your neck area that I quite don’t seem comfortable. You need to have it checked.”
When I told me that, I immediately went to- he gave me the readings and everything, the information and I made an appointment with- and afterwards I was given the appointment with my PCT. When my PCT saw that, immediately he gave me another appointment with an endocrinologist. The endocrinologist saw me and he sent for further exams. One of them was a sonogram of my neck, all that, and when he got back the readings of whatever tests he asked for, blood tests and all that, he said that there was some type of mass there in my thyroid area. He said, “You know what?” He goes, “That’s not looking good,” because when the tests from urologist saw, made it past maybe two weeks already, he goes, “It seems like it’s spreading a bit,” or something’s larger there than the last readings of the MRI.
When I was then given another appointment from my endocrinologist to go see an ENT specialist and when she read the readings, she told me it was papillary thyroid cancer. They were going to do further tests with the pathology also, but that I needed to have surgery. She asked how I wanted to treat it, if I wanted to be aggressive or non-aggressive about it, I said, “Well, if you need to chop my head off, you need to do what you need to do, what needs to be done because I have my partner and I have my family and my three dogs to look after so I need to just keep going and keep moving.
I was … She had asked me if I wanted to take some counseling. It was going to be a two-week waiting period to have the surgery done and I said, “Well, that’s fine,” and she goes, “Wait a minute. Someone’s cancelled here and there’s an opening for tomorrow,” and I said, “I’ll take it.” She just looked at me, the other office staff, they just all looked at me, they said, “Are you sure?” I said, “Yes’ let’s get it over and done with.” I said, “Let’s do what I need to do to keep going.
Then I went to surgery and my whole thyroid was removed. They thought it already spread to my lymph nodes but thank God it didn’t. I was just given further treatment, iodine treatment for several weeks and I went back, she said, “Nope, everything’s- you’re fine.” Though now I’m getting checked for … As a matter of fact, I have my endocrinologist, I still get checked twice a year for that I have my appointment with my endocrinologist next week. I also have a marker in my left breast because they did find a nodule there and I went for a biopsy but I’m getting that checked so I will go and have my mammogram also on Friday morning. That’s my story as far as my thyroid cancer, how it was found.
My partner, she’s very supportive of whatever I do or whatever I have. I was diagnosed also with rheumatoid arthritis maybe 14 years ago, but she was able to put me on her insurance at work, which is very hard to find especially down here in Texas. I’ve been very fortunate to have a partner that’s very supportive.
I was getting very- okay, we’ve been together 11 years, I had already been very sick and stuff, so when we got together, I was in a lot of pain, I didn’t know what was going on with myself. I was going here and there. I didn’t have insurance. I told them, “I’m not looking for free treatment, I want to pay but I’m unable to pay the full price of a regular insurance at the moment.” She said, “Well, let me find out through my job,” and sure enough, we find papers, and she said, “I’m not going anywhere, she’s not going anywhere,” and she was able to put me on her insurance.
I’m lesbian. I’m 54. I told my friends I was gay since the day I was born.
Oh my god, when I was 12 years old. I came out to friends at Junior High. I went to an all-girls private Catholic school, so imagine that.
I was taught and raised to be very honest by my father and by my mother. I was taught at a very young age to not give up easily but to fight if I was in my right. My dad just taught me, “You accept what’s wrong, and you start off again. Don’t give up.” Don’t ever give up. I’ve always fought … I fought my life, I mean, I had a great life but being gay, I knew exactly what it was to be discriminated, but when I came out and told my friends I had cancer, I was very open about it. Yes, you’re afraid but I was afraid of what’s going to happen to my partner, what’s going to happen to my family. That was the scary part for me. Yeah.
And for my family, and for my friends. I have friends that are ill, I have friends- it’s like, “Hey, who’s going to do this for them? Who’s going to do that for them?” Neighbors … Everyone in general. What’s going to happen to them? I’ve got friends that are HIV positive and I have been with them since the beginning. I’ve lost many friends to it from the very beginning.
I think what we need to do is we need to raise awareness that it does happen in the gay community, not just AIDS and HIV. What is it- HIV and AIDS have been focused for so many years but we need to focus on other illnesses that are a big part of our LGBT community. Not just cancer, HIV and AIDS, also the “invisible illnesses.” There’s a lot of people with fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, osteo-arthritis, you name it, and lupus. They’re all becoming very more … It’s showing up a lot in our community but yet no one has raised awareness. And it’s invisible.
I started a page on Facebook and it’s called, “Ouch, it hurts!” I put there articles that I find that are beneficial for us. The ones who suffer from auto-immune illnesses. It’s not just us who suffer from them but also for our caretakers or our partners, what they go through and stuff that’s important for them to read, that they need to know about us and just vent to not be judged about it.
Because for instance, this is an example. Just because you get HIV, a child, a baby can get it. Or some other form, it’s not just sexual. There’s many forms and it can happen to anyone; it doesn’t matter, there’s no discrimination. That’s what I’ve always told everybody. There’s no discrimination. You could be the richest of the rich or the poorest of the poor. You can get HIV, AIDs, cancer, lupus, fibromyalgia, it’s there. We just, hopefully we need to just keep on fighting and not discriminate and hopefully one day find a cure for everything.
My doctors, I have told them that I have a domestic partner and I usually, when I go to my appointments, at the beginning, when I go to a new doctor or, especially with my cancer or my RA, my partner Lisa will go with me, but now that- they’ve been very nice and no problem at all. Yeah.
The nursing staff too. I’ve been very fortunate the many times that I’ve been in the hospital with different illnesses, with my kidney stones, so forth, the staff has been very nice and very respectful. Yes.
I want to raise awareness to please get checked. There’s a lot of free, there’s a lot of organizations who offer free health fairs. Go get checked, don’t be scared because you know what the scariest part is? Is having it and it being too late and for you to be unable or for the medical staff or science and still not being able to do anything for you because you were afraid and you didn’t want to take that one step to your “You know what? You have this,” or “We found this. You need to take care of it,” and take care of it. I think it’s what it is, it’s fear.
Don’t get me wrong, I was very scared. But like I said, I was scare what’s going to happen to Lisa? What’s going to happen to Lola, my dog? What’s going to happen to my mother, my brothers? I’m the eldest and they always look for me for that support, that strength. If something happens in the family, I’m the one- I guess I can say I’ve taken over my mother’s, I’m the matriarch in a way. We still under my mother, we’re Hispanic but they look at me for, “What do you advise, Rose? What do you think?” You know, I’m not going to be there.
I know a bunch of persons that have come from small towns and stuff, because of their Latino roots, their Hispanic roots, and it’s not- How can I say it? Now it’s changed. The times are changing. Our elders have passed on, their- religion’s a big factor in coming out. But I’ve been blessed to have been born to a family that they have always been exposed to just being open-minded. They’ve never seen anything wrong. They knew if they saw a woman with me for a while, that’s my partner, that’s my “pareja”.
They never asked me questions. I think the one who took it the hardest was my mother, for a while. I even got sent to Mexico, to school and to see if I would “straighten up” and I had lots of girlfriends over there too. (Laughs) I met a number of women over there, and dated and got to go to the clandestine gay bars that were very underground back then in Mexico. Because that was a macho land where, “Hey, what are you doing woman to woman, or man with man? We’re going to show you what it’s like to be a woman,” or “We’re going to show you what it’s like to be a man.” That was their perspective but I’m glad times are changing and it’s so easy now for these youngers, that’s what I call them, to come out.
But I always told everybody, I have a bunch of friends that their children have come out and they’ve been friends of mine for years also, and I’ve told them, just respect. “Show respect,” I said, “You know the ones that are gay? Show respect.” We’re the ones that paved the road for you. Not just for us, for the past ones, learn your- unfortunately, a lot of the gay culture, it’s just disappearing. I don’t know what the youngster think. You need to vote that there were certain bills that need to be taken care of. that’s going to be for our goodness. I don’t know what it is, a lot of them don’t take time to vote or just support any gay issues or our gay community. I don’t know what’s happening.
I feel that you come out whatever you feel is right. If you’re comfortable with yourself and your comfortable with whatever … It’s you. It’s your choice. There’s a lot of persons that I know that are still in the closet, and it’s the time. Whenever they feel comfortable about finally coming out. If it’s going to happen for them, it’s going to happen for them. As long as they’re happy with themselves, then I’m happy.