How One Woman’s Journey to the U.S. with Colon Cancer Could Change Outcomes for Others in Colombia

May 30, 2019

Source: Al Dia
Author: Nigel Thompson
Published: May 30, 2019


In her late 60s and a Colombian mother of three, Maria Elena Botero couldn’t have asked for a more serene existence. Surrounded by a tight-knit family and great friends, Botero spent her days sewing, drawing and painting. “My life was really good,” she said. At that point, she’d seen all three of her children grow up, move out and get married—something she takes pride in as a mother and attributes to the higher power she follows on a daily. “I thank god everyday for my married kids. They all have their own homes and I’m in the middle,” she said.

But suddenly, Botero would need to rely on both her strongest influences to get through the biggest hurdle of her life. She was diagnosed with colon cancer, and while it would be a shock to anyone, Botero and her family stayed faithful. “You have to have a lot of positivity,” she said. “In my case, I left everything in God’s hands and trusted my doctors.” Once the cancer was discovered, doctors in Colombia put Botero on a regimen of chemotherapy before performing surgery to remove the tumor on her colon. The whole process took two years, but the cancer recurred shortly after the operation.

It was also around this time that Dr. Arturo Loaiza-Bonilla was collaborating with ACHO—a nationwide organization in Colombia of professional physicians and oncologists caring for people with cancer. Having been born and raised in Colombia, Bonilla received a medical degree from the National University of Colombia in Bogotá before coming to the U.S. to pursue research. He is currently the Vice Chair of the Department of Medical Oncology at the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Philadelphia (CTCA).