Beatriz Acosta Buitrago
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Beatriz Acosta Buitrago can remember a lot about growing up in her native Colombia, South America. But when she thinks back to her cancer diagnosis in the fall of 2005, she cannot remember any specific symptoms.
"The doctors told me I had cancer in my thyroid. They operated right away."
"My throat had become unusually sensitive. That was followed by a terrible headache," explained Beatriz. "It felt like pins and needles were inside my head. I took some medicine, but it did not go away. I went to my local hospital the next day where I was admitted. The doctors told me I had cancer in my thyroid. They operated right away."
Beatriz now resides in Philadelphia, but speaks only Spanish. With the help of her family, Beatriz understood what was happening. When she digested the news that she had cancer, Beatriz called her friend, Rosa Ortiz, and filled her in. Rosa set up a meeting for Beatriz with her friend, Dr. Irma Russo of Fox Chase.
"It was extremely helpful to talk to Dr. Russo at Fox Chase because she is a doctor AND speaks Spanish."
"Rosa made the appointment and drove me to Fox Chase," said Beatriz. "It was extremely helpful to talk to Dr. Russo at Fox Chase because she is a doctor AND speaks Spanish. She recommended I get a second opinion."
After Beatriz decided to continue her treatment at Fox Chase, she met with surgeon John A. Ridge, MD, PhD.
The language barrier was no problem for Dr. Ridge. He explained, "I lived in Mexico during an 'immersion program' while a student. It doesn't take much effort for me to converse in Spanish with Hispanic patients, who usually say that I communicate pretty well. I have a number of patients with whom I speak entirely in Spanish. Ms. Buitrago is one of them."
"When Dr. Ridge spoke to me in Spanish, I immediately felt at ease. It was a nice surprise to meet an American doctor who speaks Spanish."
Dr. Ridge perfomed her second surgery when he found some cancerous cells that remained after her initial surgery. Dr. Ridge explained, "Beatriz actually had 2 types of cancer. While most of it was typical thyroid cancer, about 5 percent was more aggressive - called anaplastic. She required 30 radiation treatments and a course of nuclear medicine."
"The doctors at Fox Chase were wonderful."
"The doctors at Fox Chase were wonderful. Even though Dr. Russo is not my physician, she quickly became a friend," noted Beatriz. "The nurses were compassionate. Both Rosa and Dr. Russo helped me with the language barrier as we made follow-up appointments. My family speaks English, so they helped me understand what was happening."
Like mother, like daughter.
Several days after Beatriz was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, her daughter, Maria, who also lives in the Philadelphia area, received the same diagnosis at their local hospital. After watching her mother's ordeal, she went directly to Fox Chase for her surgery. Today, her daughter is doing well managing her health with medication. She is grateful to be cancer-free so she can enjoy being a mom to her 16-year-old son, Miguel.
"Today we are doing wonderful!" she exclaimed. "I still see my doctors every 6 months, and my daughter sees her doctor once a year. We have resumed our normal activities and life. My daughter is a manager for Comcast. She enjoys traveling with her husband and son."
"Thanks to the medical expertise available at Fox Chase, I am able to travel to my native Colombia."
As for Beatriz, she is the retired mother of 4 children - 2 of whom still reside in Bogota. She loves to take good care of her 5 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. "Thanks to the medical expertise available at Fox Chase, I am able to travel to my native Colombia to spend time with my family."