Jessie Soto was 38 years old when he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in November 2008.
“I was very sick. My doctors told me I had only seven months to live.”
But Jessie credits skilled UT Health Science Center San Antonio faculty surgeons and the comprehensive treatment he received at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) for saving his life.
“This Nov. 3, I’ll celebrate two years of living after my diagnosis,” Soto said. “I’m still undergoing treatment, but the CTRC is the best place to be because they are looking out for me. They make sure I have what I need to keep surviving through the rough times.”
Thanks to the generosity of the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation, Soto and his wife, Rosalinda are benefiting from the CTRC’s “Surviving and Thriving” conference. Established in 2002, the conference is an annual retreat for cancer survivors and their caregivers. Usually held in the peaceful setting of a Hill Country resort, the conference provides attendees with a relaxing weekend where they learn powerful and practical tools to achieve healthy survivorship.
Since 2004, the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation has provided $18,000 to support the conference.
Mary Jackson, director of CTRC Patient and Family Services, says the goal of the program is to arm participants with an arsenal of healing strategies.
“The retreat is a haven for patients where they can heal from the inside out. The real magic though is the connections they make with one another.”
Soto explains what the conference means to him.
“The best part of the retreat is that it creates new families. I meet people who have the same struggles I do. They become part of my family. I’ll be on treatment for the rest of my life, and I know my new family is there for me.”
Fighting back tears, Soto continues in a quivering voice: “They care about me as a person. The retreat gives me hope and the strength to stay alive because I look forward to seeing my Surviving and Thriving family again each year. I wake up every morning thankful for them. We plan what we’ll do at the retreat when we see each other again.”
The Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation has generously supported the Health Science Center since 1992 with more than $600,000 to fund the university’s educational, clinical, research and community service programs.
“I’m so thankful to those who make this retreat possible because they are helping me and so many others in ways they can’t imagine,” Soto said. “It’s a hard thing to live with cancer. The retreat keeps us strong. It keeps us going.”
For more information about the conference, call 210-450-5574.