By Betzaira G Childers, MD
My family left all our belongings, extended family, and all we knew to immigrate to the United States when I was a young girl. These were the days before social media and internet, so I grew up knowing only my immediate family with little knowledge of my extended family still in Mexico. As far as I was concerned, it was just us, and we were alone. Effectively, my parents’ only goal was for us to excel and have opportunities they never had. And so, when it came to our new life in the US, we worked hard. All of us.
We certainly didn’t stop to smell the roses. My parents worked long days and multiple jobs. We had no extracurricular activities and didn’t celebrate holidays as they simply cost too much. My oldest sister served as our babysitter when we weren’t sitting quietly at a corner table at the restaurant where my mom worked. My siblings and I often felt our immediate family was a bit of an island, floating out in the middle of nowhere, without a community or a place where we belonged.
Our island of a family was rattled earlier this year when my mother was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer. True to her character, she met it with determination. Admittedly, my siblings and I were unhinged. Fortunately for us, I was wrong about being all alone all those years. Friends and family that I recalled only by name, or a remote story came to our rescue without batting an eye. Day after day and month after month they stayed alongside us for what turned out to be a treacherous storm. It was my first time experiencing this fortress of courage and love from my own community, my lineage, my people, my heritage.
I was wrong all along. We were never alone.
Though my family lost more than we can replace, we also found our connection to home. Hispanic Heritage Month is special to me because it recognizes my family’s journey and the community that connects us all.
Dr. Childers is a clinical PGY4 general surgery resident at The University of Cincinnati. She completed two years of basic science research in pancreatic cancer at UCSD in the lab of Dr. Andrew Lowy while also serving as the San Diego Center for Precision Immunotherapy fellow. Dr. Childers has research interests aimed at understanding and manipulating the immune environment to elicit treatment responses in various cancer types. She is a resident member of the Association of Women Surgeons and American Association for Cancer Research. Dr. Childers was a full scholarship track and field athlete for The University of Texas at Austin and qualified for the Olympic Trials in 2012. She represented Team USA at the 2012 Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country Competition. She doesn’t enjoy cooking, loves international travel, and is always up for a run.
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