Survivor donates scarves to breast cancer patients

CHICAGO, Illinois -- A Chicago teacher and breast cancer survivor wants to spread hope other patients. Thursday, she made a special visit to her treatment center with unique gifts for patients as part of a new charity project.

"The first time when you come in and are first diagnosed, there's a lot of fear," said Maria Luisa Gonzalez.

Last winter, Gonzalez was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. After months of chemotherapy, she can now call herself a survivor.

But the treatment was brutal. Like many who undergo chemo, she lost her hair.

"How am I going to face the world and I remember vividly that weekend where it was just coming out in chunks and I stayed in the house for two days," Gonzalez said.

But she says it all changed after a friend gave her a simple gift: a scarf.

"Just having that scarf, just feeling... I just felt beautiful," Gonzalez said. "It changed everything for me and I felt powerful."

Now six months into remission, she wants to give back. On Thursday, she returned to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center with more than a dozen gift bags. Inside each bag was a scarf with a special note.

"I think that this is a real support to the patients that our medical team can't provide," said Dr. Anne Mauer, Medical Director of Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.
"It's my favorite color pink," said breast cancer patient Latrese Richmond.

Richmond is undergoing her third treatment at the medical center.

"I just feel loved you know because sometimes people don't feel that when they are going through something like this," Richmond said.

"When you're going through something like this, any little gift that you get to unwrap and open it means the world to you," Gonzalez said.

The road to remission is a long one. At Illinois Masonic it's marked with a sound that echoes through the halls.

"My intent with the scarves is to give women courage and the strength that you need every day...just to let them know that we can do this," Gonzalez said.

Since Maria has been in remission she has started "Courage for the Soul." The organization will collect donated scarves to hand out to breast cancer patients.

She hopes other survivors who get one will send it back with a story on how it helped them.

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