CHICAGO --A Chicago teacher and breast cancer survivor wants to spread hope other patients. On Thursday, Maria Luisa Gonzalez 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," she said.
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, and 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 said 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.
Latrese Richmond was undergoing her third treatment at the medical center.
"It's my favorite color pink," she said. "I just feel loved, you know, because sometimes people don't feel that when they are going through something like this."
The road to remission is a long one, and at Illinois Masonic, it's marked with a sound that echoes through the halls.
"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. "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."
Since Gonzalez 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.