Our Passion, Your Health

Our Passion | Your Health features stories on the latest happenings at Penn State Health St. Joseph. Check out our blogs, recipes, patient stories, program highlights, and new services that represent our passion...your health.

Navigating Her Own Cancer Diagnosis

Maria Jimenez was born and raised in Puerto Rico and arrived in Reading in 1984.

She worked at many jobs as she raised 2 children. She had a “good life” but wanted to improve herself.

So, at age 53, Maria began college with the dream of working in healthcare.

In 2015, she graduated from Alvernia University with a BS in Healthcare Science. During her senior year, Maria “shadowed” St. Joseph’s Oncology Social Worker and Breast Care Patient Navigator and, after that experience, decided that becoming a Navigator would be a perfect career for her!

And her timing was perfect, too!

The year she graduated, St. Joe’s was the recipient of a Grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The grant was to hire a full-time Bilingual Navigator, known in the Latino community as a Promotora. After being hired, Maria attended the Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute in New York City for the specialized training needed for her new role.

In the ensuing 18 months, she found her life’s calling. She was devoted to assisting women, especially Reading’s large Latino community, to learn about the importance of breast health and mammograms.

She was immersed in her new job and life was good to her.

Then, in April 2017, she found a lump in one of her own breasts.

A mammogram and ultrasound was followed by a biopsy; the news was not good: She was diagnosed with stage IIB breast cancer.

Maria needed chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy; she lost her hair and took a leave from the job she loved. She was quite sick from the side effects of treatment, but yearned to return to the work she felt so passionate about.

Finally, just this October 2, Maria was back, with the realization that, more than ever, she was uniquely qualified to be a Promotora. While she still needs infusions and radiation therapy, she believes “the worst is over.” And, as if her professional mission needed clarity, she recognizes that her personal experience will be invaluable as she helps patients to deal with a cancer diagnosis and treatment.


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