When I called Cleola B. to schedule a visit to her home, she told me that she would be having surgery two days later. I did not want to delay her interview or bother her during her recovery, and she is an elderly woman without access to Skype, so I decided it would be best if we just spoke over the phone. Cleola lives alone in an apartment with her dog Wookie. She receives most of her support from her mother, who also lives in Oakland, and is grateful for the support of her patient navigator, Karen. Cancer is not a new challenge for her family. She lost her husband in 2008 to the illness and she is the fifth person in her family (that she is aware of) to be diagnosed with breast cancer. She previously lost an aunt and a cousin, and her sister and mother are both survivors. Cleola has faced some health challenges in her life, and now breathes with the assistance of an oxygen tank. Even so, in our conversation, she was always quick to point out the beauty in a given situation. For example, she mentioned that she is grateful that breast cancer treatments have come a long way and have improved her chances of emerging with a positive outcome. She describes her lifestyle as “low-key” – nothing fancy, and not concerned about getting attention. She enjoys crocheting and being outdoors. Although she can’t do it anymore, she used to love camping and riding her motorcycle. She faces everyday financial challenges, particularly related to bills, groceries, and medicine, and she has trouble making ends meet. She used the support from the Love from Margot Foundation to help cover these costs, which helped reduce the stress on her weak body and improved her quality of life significantly.
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