Erica Rimlinger was informed about this matter by Erica Rimlinger.
At age 35, due to my family history of cancer, I underwent my first mammogram. Although this mammogram came back clear, a subsequent one 12 months later revealed a large rapidly growing tumor which had reached stage 3A status and spread throughout my lymph nodes.
At 36 years old and just 14 months into living in America, I found out I had breast cancer with many questions to be asked in a language unfamiliar to me. Furthermore, my husband and daughter and I had just moved from Texas to California without knowing anyone here and no family or support network in place to provide guidance or comfort in my time of need.
My separation from my family was deeply painful: My father was living in Mexico with hospice for his cancer and, due to my illness, was unable to visit me in return; therefore other family members couldn’t visit him either.
Life was changing more quickly than I ever could have expected. Within one week of my diagnosis, chemotherapy treatments began. Culture shock had quickly given way to cancer treatments; yet I understood my advantages and privileges in this situation: insurance, having my husband help translate medical terminology for me, having access to an excellent team of caregivers that included oncologist, surgeon, spiritual director, psychologist and nutritionists as part of a great medical center’s holistic approach which encouraged me to learn about new health and wellness practices which could start immediately – I truly appreciated this medical center’s holistic approach because this allowed me to embrace treatment as an opportunity to learn about healthy ways of living!
Genetic testing did not link my cancer directly to one gene, but through the hospital’s education staff and my own curiosity I gained insight into how lifestyle factors play into cancer risks. Through meditation and massage I also learned how to eat healthier while managing chemotherapy and radiation treatments better with meditation and massage therapies. Meanwhile I continued learning English daily and used this new language as a weapon for self-advocacy – carefully selecting my care team according to what best matched my outlook and approach to treatment; speaking up was no easy feat in any language, but by communicating effectively and doing it with respect and humility my care team responded positively.
My father died from cancer while I was going through chemotherapy, and although people often compare cancer with fighting an uphill battle, to me cancer was simply part of life and part of our family’s history. While grieving for him I lost hair, weight, became anemic and learned I’d need a double mastectomy and removal of both ovaries as well as radiation treatment plus hormone therapy for years or perhaps decades to come.
I wasn’t interested in “fighting” these treatments: instead, my goal was to assist them. Much like when I moved here from Italy, my goal was to learn everything possible about my new situation – no fighting required; just acceptance and learning from it all! Life wasn’t fair or simple any longer; so rather than fight it I chose acceptance – looking for lessons along the way.
At my father’s side is cancer – its number one cause of death for Hispanic people in the US – making my discovery all the more surprising since four members of my immediate family (grandmother, mother and father) have battled the illness themselves.
To help me remain busy and sane during long treatments, I started a blog titled “Rosa es Rojo.” Translated literally, it means “pink is red.” For me personally, red has always symbolized passion and strength; therefore it was fitting that this blog be named in its honor – I needed strength so my writing helped create it both internally and externally through sharing what I was learning as part of a new healthier lifestyle transitioning me toward wellness, exercise, nutrition, positive mindset, forgiveness as ways of creating good practices in both mind and body for which I realized was also creating a community!
Two years after my diagnosis, I returned home to Texas with my family feeling more resilient than ever. I turned my blog into a nonprofit health community for Hispanic women in the U.S. by providing classes, workshops, podcasts, virtual and in-person mentoring programs as well as apps with wellness education content.
My initial goal was to expand the Hispanic community that I created when I needed one most and to reach deeper into Hispanic society as we went. Once this goal is accomplished, my next one is to help create a healthier and more resilient Hispanic community – we all rely on each other’s health to be strong and live vibrant and full lives! While learning these lessons was not easy, cancer remains both an opportunity and privilege that continues to enrich my life in unexpected ways and expand my horizons for new adventures.
This resource was produced with support from Merck.
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