Emily thought she had come down with a stomach bug

March 31, 2014

If you reach the answering machine at Emily Diaz’s Palmdale home, you hear the standard “we’re not in right now,” but you also hear a very heartfelt message: “I’m thanking God for all he is doing in my life.”

Indeed. It was a Monday in the summer of 2010 when Emily thought she had come down with a stomach bug. Scrupulous about her health care, she visited her doctor who saw no serious symptoms, assumed she was right and urged her to check back if things worsened.

One day later she realized something was definitely wrong, and her husband drove her to the Emergency Department at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, an hour-long trek.

“It’s a long way, but I automatically think Holy Cross. I don’t think of going anywhere else,” said Emily, who was 75 at the time.

Before her husband Manuel returned from parking the car, Emily was already being seen. A number of tests revealed a shattering diagnosis: stomach cancer.

Emily’s first appointment with oncologist Shamal Sanani, M.D., lasted three hours. He explained all her test results, recommended next steps and referred her to surgical oncologist Vijay Trisal, M.D. On June 22, 2010, Dr. Trisal removed Emily’s stomach. A few days in intensive care followed and after 10 days, Emily went home to recover.

“Everyone acted so quickly, and they saved my life,” she said. “From Tuesday’s stomach bug to Thursday when I was told I had cancer, they were with me every step. Nobody can be prepared for this. You have so many questions. When I tell people Dr. Sanani spent three hours with me the first time we met, they’re amazed.”

Her Holy Cross nurses, she said, were “angels.”

“They treat you so wonderfully,” she said. “It was like angels were walking around on that floor. The night I had surgery, if they heard my bed squeak, they would come in and check and see what I needed. I tell my husband the whole bunch of them – every one of them was an angel.”

Therapists, too, visited regularly and worked with Emily on breathing exercises and on getting her back on her feet.

“They were so kind and so patient,” she said. “If I wasn’t feeling well, they would leave and come back a while later.”

Today, Emily is doing great. She has had to change her eating habits, and has lost significant weight so exercise comes easier. She and Manuel are looking forward to May 2, their 59th wedding anniversary. The couple has three married sons, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren – with a third on the way!

“I am doing exceptionally well. I have so much respect for Holy Cross, for my doctors and the nurses. Everyone,” she said. “I’m so blest. Every day is special now.”