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Nation's largest cancer research organization lost trust with some local patients

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Posted at 4:53 AM, Nov 04, 2021
and last updated 2022-05-02 12:52:26-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — UPDATE (11:40 a.m. Monday):

Maria Guillen lost her battle with breast cancer.

The 52-year-old lost her battle with the disease last week and will be buried Tuesday.

KRIS 6 News met Guillen, a dental hygienist, in October during our coverage of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

She was forced to leave her job after her diagnosis, having to travel to Houston for treatment every other week.

Her daughter helped her through it all.

"She just laughs about everything -- the whole treatment,” said Isabella Miles, Guillen's daughter. “There was never a sad moment with her. She always kept it very bright, but she always put god first, too." Miles is one of Guillen’s five surviving children who hopes her mother's story will push others to be proactive in getting checked for breast cancer.

A viewing is being held at Corpus Christi Funeral Home at 5 p.m. Monday. The community is invited to attend.


With October gone, that means the international breast cancer campaign is too.

Now is the time to count the dollars raised to bring awareness to the disease and support to major charities like the American Cancer Society.

However, trust with that organization is broken for some Coastal Bend women.

“You would think the American Cancer Society would do something, right? No,” said Amanda Medina, a Taft native and stage 4 metastatic breast cancer patient.

She and her friend, Maria Guillen, came to realize the ACS would not have their backs in the way they hoped.

“American Cancer Society, here locally, honestly, I’m very disappointed,” Guillen said.

Guillen was diagnosed with stage 3 triple negative breast cancer in June. Her and Medina’s first post-diagnosis calls were to the ACS.

“I reached out for a wig. They were closed because of COVID or didn’t have any,” Medina recalled. “I reached out for help going to MD Anderson because I lost my job. They didn’t help. The only thing they do is send you an email of other organizations you can reach out to that’ll help you.”

The ACS closed many offices across the country last summer after the coronavirus pandemic hit, as a way to save money.

“We could do better. We should have done better,” said Letitia Thompson, the vice president of ACS’s southern region.

Corpus Christi's ACS office used to be located at 210 S. Carancahua St #301. Thompson says the organization is currently going digital at the request of an “overwhelming majority."

“While it might be awesome to have somebody that you can call on the phone that’s there in Corpus Christi, calling someone on the phone at our national call center is going to get you the same results,” she said.

Guillen and Medina disagree.

“I won’t raise money for American Cancer Society,” Medina says.

The ACS provides millions of dollars for breast cancer research and patient support. While it no longer offers free wigs, it does have have an online site where wig and headwear products are sold.

The organization also has a 24/7 national call center, and free lodging and appointment transportation. For now, gas cards and car service are issued through hospitals.

In the past year, the ACS awarded $8,000 in transportation grants to Christus Spohn Hospital. With that money, so far, 63 patients have received 1,309 free rides to appointments.

“I don’t ever want to hear a patient walk away from an experience with ACS and say, ‘They did nothing for me,’” Thompson said.

Guillen and Medina ended up finding help through their own research. Both hope patients are more aware of the organizations they choose to support and call on.

“Whether you’re a woman or a man going through breast cancer, there are resources out there,” Medina said. “You just have to learn to be an advocate for yourself.”

Some of the other programs used by both women are The Ballard House, Leslie’s Week, Breast Friends, and Oath.