by Hortencia Gonzalez, Cervical Technician
According to the Ministry of Health in Nicaragua (MINSA), female mortality from cervical cancer is still the highest in Nicaragua compared to all the Americas. Next to the high female mortality, Nicaragua registers extremely low in the level of education of girls - below the Central American regional average. From birth to death, women in Nicaragua are at a serious disadvantage in terms of health and education.
When I was in college, I decided to do my internship at the Bertha Calderon Hospital where I worked with women in the final stages in their battle against cancer. It was an extremely difficult year because I never imagined the stories they would share. The women always talked with me about their lives and their feelings, and it truly opened up my eyes to our situation in Nicaragua.
My first close experience with cervical cancer was when I met Patricia. A woman from the rural community of Jalapa, in the north part of Nicaragua. Patricia carried sadness, pain and despair on her face every day. She visited the hospital laboratory once a week for screening, which was very painful for her because of how the treatment reduced her vessel size and blood flow. The cancer was torture as she battled against its growth daily. Besides the physical suffering, the cancer kept her away from her family. When I visited her in the radiotherapy center where she was housed, I learned more about her life, her family, and her desires to beat the disease. Her ultimate dream was to just return home to be with her daughters who lived back in Jalapa. According to Patricia, they rarely visited due to the distance and cost of the trip to Managua. During my time with Patricia, there was a period when all seemed lost. The treatment was so devastating and painful; she eventually lost her appetite and her desire to live.
Fortunately, Patricia never gave up her battle and continued the treatment. Patricia survived the two year battle and is now back with her daughters, who ultimately were the reason she kept fighting. Patricia is a symbol of hope for many women going through treatment, and a voice of caution to all women who are prone to the disease. Cervical cancer is preventable, and we have an opportunity to make a difference.
Since working with The Lily Project, I feel as though I am living each story of the women we exam and treat. As we venture to these little rural communities there are so many stories of women like Patricia that did not end as well. I see daily the cycle continuing as little girls are not being educated, often pregnant by the age of 13, and mothers supporting the cycle of something we must break in our country. This is the motivation and inspiration that make me want to do this work. I know that we, as women in Nicaragua, must be together on this mission. I believe we all play a part in the future. I hope that if you are living in the communities we visit, you will participate in our events; and I hope that if you are reading this from afar that you will support our efforts through whatever means you can so that women can realize hope for themselves and their families in the near future.