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South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)

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STVHCS Engineering Staff Show Support to Fellow Employee

Showing her gratefulness, Yilda Rivera, breast cancer patient, kisses her friend, Kathy Gonzales, on the head. Gonzales just had her head shaved a show of support for her friend and her fight. Gonzales vowed to keep her head shaved until her friend’s hair grows back.

Showing her gratefulness, Yilda Rivera, breast cancer patient, kisses her friend, Kathy Gonzales, on the head. Gonzales just had her head shaved a show of support for her friend and her fight. Gonzales vowed to keep her head shaved until her friend's hair grows back. – Photo by Robin Risemas, STVHCS Office of Public Affairs.

By Robin Risemas, Office of Public Affairs
Monday, March 12, 2012

2011 was a difficult time for South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) Engineering Service employee Yilda Rivera. At age 40, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

Relocating to San Antonio little more than a year before her diagnosis, Rivera, her husband and their 2 children could not have known the impact they would have on Kathy Gonzales or the impact she would have on them.

Rivera first underwent a lumpectomy, but when the margins didn’t come out clean, she opted to have a bi-lateral mastectomy and began chemotherapy treatment.  The effects of chemotherapy can be devastating, the least of which is hair loss.

With a strong faith, Rivera and her family pray each day for the strength to continue the fight, and it shows. With a radiant smile and a beautiful personality, one doesn’t even notice the scarf she wears to cover her now bald head.

Kathy Gonzales, also in Engineering Service, seems to be an answer to their prayers. Gonzales decided she wanted to support her friend in more ways than one. As soon as Rivera told Gonzales about the diagnosis, Gonzales vowed to show that support and said “I’ll be there whenever she needs me.” Recently, Gonzales took a big step in showing that support by shaving her head so Rivera will not be the only one at work. Gonzales wants her to feel comfortable no matter what the situation and says “I will not grow my hair back until she does.”

As a group of Engineering staff members gathered in the VA Barber Shop, Rudy Valdez began to shave Gonzales’ head. There was no shortage of tears as everyone began to feel the power of the friendship between the two women.  Just as there was no shortage of tears, there was also no shortage of laughter, after all, they say it is the best medicine.  Laughter through tears is a powerful drug, and everyone present that morning was feeling the effects.

The display of love and support on this morning was constant. From holding hands to hugging and joking around, everyone in that room left a piece of themselves behind and emerged a better person, wanting to go forward and make a difference in the lives of others.

Though some sacrifices appear larger than others, the impact will always be the same – you will change someone’s life forever, even your own.

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