Approximately 75% of CMC clients are Latina, African-American, and Asian. Most clients speak little to no English and live below the federal poverty level. Some have young children living at home; others live alone. Some have the support of friends and family, others must rely solely on practical support services.
The type and staging of their cancers likewise varies, with 85% of our clients having primary or metastatic breast cancer; 65% have advanced cancers. CMC is committed to ensuring that their survival and quality of life is not further jeopardized by inadequate attention to the side effects of the cancer or its treatment.
CMC serves 400 clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area in our large, centrally located, public transportation accessible Oakland clinic. The majority of our clients are from Alameda County but we also have clients from Contra Costa, Solano, San Francisco, Marin, and Santa Clara Counties.
Esperanza and Laura are a mother and daughter from Mexico who were both diagnosed with breast cancer within months of each other. Laura speaks some English, but Esperanza does not. Laura had a double mastectomy and has struggled with bilateral lymphedema as a result. CMC’s Latina Advocate was able to work with her physicians at the county hospital to gain approval for surgery to reduce the extensive swelling and pain that interfered with sleep and kept her from returning to work. Both women appreciate the integrative medicine treatments and social services provided here and enjoy coming to the clinic on Latina days to meet with other Latinas and find additional comfort and support from the friendships they have formed in the waiting room.
When Mei came to CMC, she was newly diagnosed with stage IV nasopharyngeal cancer. She also reported high blood pressure and arthritis. She had recurring pain from a mugging attempt some years back. The cancer responded well to treatment, but she found it difficult to swallow because of scar tissue from the radiation. CMC practitioners figured out the best food and supplements to aid her in eating enough so she could keep her strength up. Mei was one of the first members of the exercise and program we started at the clinic to ensure that our clients would have access to the benefits of regular exercise. Every week she showed up in her Charlotte Maxwell hat and sturdy shoes to join in on the stretching, walking, and sharing of stories and food, also a regular part of the program. She recently attended her great-granddaughter’s graduation and her whole family was proud and pleased to see her walking with a real spring to her step.
Carmen is a 54-year-old Latina woman who is living with Stage 3 lung cancer. She was initially treated with surgery only. In the past year, she experienced numerous mid-term symptoms that had everyone worried: balance/disorientation issues, headaches, intermittent upper right quadrant abdominal pain, and nausea. She has also experienced intermittent high blood pressure, dry mouth/thirst, swollen glands and anxiety. These worrisome symptoms resolved using acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
Unfortunately, Carmen recently had suspicious activity in a lymph node show up on a scan. We counseled her to maintain and increase contact with her oncologist to carefully monitor this situation, and her MD recently recommended she begin radiation therapy. Her CMC acupuncturist/herbalist has adjusted her prescription to help her through any side effects she may experience with radiation, and she will ensure that Carmen be supported and carefully monitored through this new round of treatment.