My name is Silvia Fuentes, and I'm a survivor of cervical cancer. When they diagnosed me with the disease in May 2014, I had not been working and I had no medical insurance. My family and I had two options: take the treatment that was offered through the national health system or pay for treatment privately.
We decided to go with the first option. I remember I was so afraid. I did not realize that I would have to wait so much time to be attended to when I arrived to start the treatment. I had heard that fighting cancer in the national health system was like trying to survive against all odds. I was referred to Bertha Calderon, the hospital in Managua that treats cancer in women. There I met many other women from around Nicaragua also fighting to stay alive. With these other women, I waited many days going through various exams and appointments with doctors. Every woman had a different story to tell. Some of the women were fortunate and had detected the cancer early, but others were in advanced stages. However, one thing we all had in common: we had not had a regular Pap exam. Some for shame of the exam process and others because they just didn't like visiting the gynecologist, others because they didn't think the exam was important, and others because they lived in rural communities where the exam was not available. It was hard to identify with the ladies in the rural communities that did not have access because I lived in the city where I had all the resources, public & private, and I still did not take advantage of them. This made me sad as I realized how I had an opportunity that many women in my country do not.
While waiting for treatment in Bertha Calderon, I submitted a request to be transferred to a better hospital based upon my previous job and the payments I was making to the social medicine at that time. The request was approved in June, and I started a better treatment program in a different hospital. God gave me an opportunity through this change as the treatment was much better, and I promised Him I would repay it by helping other women in similar situations. I was determined to encourage other ladies to be strong and courageous in light of the circumstances and fight the disease with the treatment available.
In 2015, I was declared free of the cancer, and I began looking for opportunities to fulfill my promise to God. Through social media, I found out about a new program focused on delivering health services to women in rural communities in Nicaragua called the Lily Project. The Lily Project Team was working with the health ministry, local leaders and established organizations to deliver their services to areas that were difficult to reach. I still remember how excited I was when I reached out to Lily, and I explained I wanted to be a part of the work and help the women in need.
This is how I came to The Lily Project; a cause I'm so passionate about, my cause! The times that I've participated with the Lily Team in the communities, I've truly enjoyed being with the women and helping them realize the value of having a regular Pap exam. I talk with them, share my story, and I listen to them. I emphasize that this is for their health and for the love of their family.
In these moments as I see the work of The Lily Project through the pictures on the website or via social media, I see moms and grandmothers arriving with their daughters and granddaughters, I see kids playing while their moms, aunts and sisters are examined, and I feel life. I feel love. I give God thanks for giving me a second chance at life, and I choose to live it to the fullest!