Every Sunday through Christmas, the El Paso Times will feature families who are being helped through the El Paso Times Senior Fund and Operation Noel giving campaigns.
“Mommy has cancer,” was the hardest thing Sara Ulloa has had to tell her young children.
“They were devasted,” Ulloa, 28, said. “They didn’t completely understand, but they knew mommy was sick and that it was serious.”
She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer three years ago, when her three children were all under 5 years old.
“They didn’t want to go to school, or outside to play,” Ulloa said. “They didn’t ever want to leave me.”
She had a partial hysterectomy and was doing better until the cancer came back earlier this year. She’s now scheduled for another surgery in January, she said.
“They’ll have to hear that mommy has cancer again,” she said.
Mia, now 5, Julian, 6, and big brother Dominic, 7, know their mommy is sick again but don’t yet know the cancer is back and that she’ll be hospitalized soon after Christmas.
Her husband of 10 years, Ricardo, is a truck driver who was sometimes out on the road while she was on treatment the first time around.
“A lot of times I was on my own, but it’s what I had to do,” Ulloa said.
One blessing, she said, was the Boys and Girls Club of El Paso, where the children get help with their homework and participate in various activities. Her children will also get coats from Operation Noel this winter.
Despite her health issues, Ulloa says she’s happy her children are happy and healthy. Oldest brother Dominic has attended speech and occupational therapy since he was 2 years old, but Ulloa says he’s come a long way and is now attentive and helpful.
“It was rough, sometimes wondering if he’d ever talk,” she said. “Then I heard him say, ‘I love you, mommy,’ and that’s when I knew all would be better.”
Other families receiving winter coats through Operation Noel this year:
- The Uribe/Rodriguez family from Canutillo find themselves blessed that the chile harvest in the region gives them temporary jobs even though it’s seasonal work. The children, Miguel Uribe, 5, and Allison Rodriguez, 10, do well in school and are motivated to graduate high school and go to college so they won’t face the same financial hardships, mom Alondra Uribe said.
- Barbarita Lopez from Canutillo is battling bone cancer, but she doesn’t let that stop her from fighting to help her children move forward in life. When she has the energy, she works cleaning homes, selling cosmetics or selling homemade cookies. She said she hopes her children are inspired to work hard.
- The Escareño family moved to El Paso from Juarez six years ago looking for better opportunities. Mom and Dad have worked on the cotton fields, construction, cleaning homes and selling tamales, which puts food on the table and pays for some basics. The four children in the family will get coats through Operation Noel, but are also in need of clothes.
The El Paso Times Senior Fund pays for hearing aids, incontinence supplies, glasses and other items that Medicaid does not typically cover for area low-income seniors. It also pays for ramps, grab bars, shower chairs and other equipment and work needed to help the elderly get around safely.
Here are some of their stories:
This senior has had to struggle with an eating disorder all her life. Now 70 and frail, she counts on nutritional supplements more than ever, as her stomach cannot tolerate solid foods any longer. Without supplements such as Ensure, this senior falls ill, loses weight and become lethargic. She’s requesting assistance for Ensure products.
This senior recalls a happy childhood visiting her grandparents in Oklahoma and raising farm animals. These days, the 73-year-old widow doesn’t like to go outside much because of her incontinence. She could use assistance for adult diapers.
This 76-year-old senior recalls meeting his wife for the first time, saying it was love at first sight for him but that he had to convince her that he was “the one” for her. They’re still together. The gentleman, however, is in need of eye glasses to replace the ones he bought six years ago.
This senior finds herself constantly shouting, and could use some hearing aids. The 82-year-old would like to hear her doctors better and take charge of her health care by being fully involved.
The El Paso Times Senior Fund distributes donations to area seniors referred by the Rio Grande Council of Government’s Area Agency on Aging.
Operation Noel provides more than 20,000 coats to needy children throughout the El Paso and New Mexico area. It is sponsored by HUB International, Mattress Firm, the El Paso Times and Channel 7-KVIA.
Donations can be sent to Operation Noel, 201 E. Main St., Suite 1603, El Paso, TX 79901. Information: 351-0408 or operationnoel.org.
El Paso Times Senior Fund
The El Paso Times Senior Fund provides hearing aids, dental assistance and other medical services, as well as ADA accommodations, to older adults referred to the Rio Grande Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging.
Donations can be sent to the El Paso Times Senior Fund, 500 W. Overland Ave., Suite 150, El Paso, TX 79901. Information: 533-0998, ext. 116.