Rosa’s Story: A Woman of Courage Beats Cancer at House of Hope 

By Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor
(All photos without masks were taken prior to COVID-19)

A Woman of Courage Beats Cancer at House of Hope

When Rosa went into surgery for cervical cancer, she wondered whether she would awaken in Heaven or on Earth. How her strength, faith and shelter led to the latter.

It started with a dull but worsening ache in her lower abdomen. Within weeks, Rosa was bleeding profusely.

As she lay on the floor of her home in Imperial County, staring up at the ceiling, Rosa knew she needed help. Her bed sheets were ruined with blood. Her mind, racing; her body, throbbing. She was unable to work and running out of money. Soon, she would not be able to pay for electricity, never mind the expensive tests and procedures to diagnose cancer.

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“If I Can Get Up, I Will Go to House of Hope”

Rosa’s life was leaving her. She didn’t know the cause or reason, but she could feel it slipping away with each passing liter of blood. She prayed for the strength to stand and pledged that she would go to House of Hope, Catholic Charities’ women’s shelter in El Centro, where she had met Director of Outreach Guadalupe “Lupita” Rodriguez.   

“On a day where I could just barely move, I made it to House of Hope,” Rosa said. “I asked Lupita if she could give me shelter and help me find out why I am so sick.”

A Moment of Numbness

With the help of Catholic Charities, Rosa was able to visit a doctor. Then came the tests. And when the doctor walked in, that look. Finally, the words. Cancer of the cervix.

Rosa was mortified. Fear spread throughout her body leaving her with questions between life and death. She describes it as one of the hardest things she has ever gone through. With the help of the staff at House of Hope she felt supported and said a prayer that would save her life.  

That was the day she started fighting cancer.

 Finding Hope Amid Hopelessness

Everyone has good days and bad days. For most of us, the difference is nominal. For Rosa, good days brought a sense of life, while bad ones posed impending death. Cancer is an emotional rollercoaster as much as it is a physical battle. When the fight or flight response wore off, Rosa entered a phase of, “Why even try?”

“Why buy hair spray if I’m going to lose my hair?”

“Why buy laundry detergent if I won’t be wearing clothes?”

Rosa wouldn’t buy a case of soda because she feared she wouldn’t reach the last can. The reality of cancer took a toll on her mind. She hadn’t told even her closest family members she was sick because she did not want to burden them.

“Lupita and the staff got me through that dark time,” Rosa said. “They told me, ‘You are not alone,’ and that helped me believe in my future. I realized that if I could live through this, I would live through God. And if I died, I will have died for God.”

Still, the odds seemed long—and the costs, prohibitive. In the cancer clinic, Rosa looked around at the machinery. The beds. The lights. The nurses. How would she afford this level of care?

When the doctor walked in, Rosa apologized for bleeding on the sheet.

“Is that how much you usually bleed?” the doctor asked, alarmed.

“No, it’s usually more,” Rosa said.

He responded, “How is it possible that you have lost this much blood, so many times, and you are still living?”

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It’s Beautiful to Be Alive

The day before her cervical cancer surgery, Rosa pulled a friend and fellow participant at House of Hope to the side.

“If I don’t come back, you can have my clothes,” Rosa told the woman. “They’re clean and we both wear the same size.”

When Rosa arrived at the hospital the next day, she thanked God. From sleeping on her floor to this sparkling facility, He had given her so much. As she received the anesthesia, she knew that if she woke up and saw the doctor, she will have lived. If not, she will have gone to another life.


“Good morning, what time is it?” Rosa asked.


She looked to her left—a ventilator. To her right—a clock. She was alive. The medical costs, covered. Rosa defeated cancer. Now, hear her heartfelt words about life, struggle, faith and overcoming adversity at House of Hope.

*to auto generate English subtitles, click the CC on the bottom of the video – then Settings – then click Auto-Generate to English*

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