After cancer diagnosis, senior finds renewed dignity

This Denver senior, a seeing-impaired man who is battling cancer, had difficulties getting the healthcare he needed. Catholic Charities was there and helped him feel renewed dignity.
As this senior fought cancer and struggled with impaired eyesight, Catholic Charities was there to offer help.

“I am not afraid of death, but I don’t want to die. Cancer sucks, but I’m a fighter. God does not make mistakes. I’m not broken. …(Catholic Charities) was able to offer all this help and build my dignity that had been so shattered.”

In August, the 59-year-old said he moved from Massachusetts to Denver to access new healthcare. He was diagnosed with liver cancer—and had no family to help. His providers referred him to Catholic Charites of Denver for assistance. Roberta Trujillo, a social case worker under Adult and Senior Services, was the first to help.

“He struggled communicating with his medical providers,” said Roberta, who first met him in January. “He was needing cataract surgery but kept running into red tape barriers. My part in his story was mostly a catalyst and sounding board. Sometimes big problems get much smaller when you feel someone is sharing the load.”

Adult and Senior Services of Catholic Charities works with older adults to identify needs, set goals, and help them achieve a better standard of living and quality of life. Roberta assisted the senior with making his appointments and watching his seeing-eye dog, named Perro, during surgeries and hospital visits.

“(Roberta) was able to offer all this help and build my dignity that had been so shattered,” he said. “There’s a lot I don’t have to explain to her about that. She was there for me.”

Facing new a new cancer diagnosis and treatment, the senior felt emotional and it was difficult to make rational decisions.

“Having to deal with this issue made me feel less than diminished and degraded,” he said.

Roberta assisted with getting the medical attention he needed. He also needed cataract surgery, which Roberta helped him arrange. His vision has since improved.

“His vision is much improved and increased his independence,” she said. “Never did I feel he’d lost dignity—it might have been smothered by frustrations common for seniors facing social systems. He simply is a joyous person and maintains a positive outlook on life.”

Roberta also found him some household appliances and exercise equipment with the help of a local church. They made his Denver apartment more welcoming to others. The senior said Catholic Charities was like his safe harbor. With Roberta’s help, he found a way through the medical challenges in his life—and the emotional support to keep going.

He says now, “When life gives you lemonade, I don’t want to make lemonade. I want to make lemon pie.”

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