Ercilia Sandoval’s Fight for Health Care

Ercilia Sandoval is fighting for a right that no woman should every be denied. An immigrant from El Salvador, she works as a janitor in Houston. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she could not find a hospital that would treat her because she didn’t have health insurance.

With the costs of chemo and surgery costing hundreds of thousands of dollars (a topic which was poignantly addressed in the “I faced cancer with no insurance” cartoon by Cancer Vixen author Marisa Acocella Marchetto in the October issue of Glamour), Sandoval was not able to get timely treatment and as a result now has only months to live, time she is putting to good use. Sandoval decided that things needed to change and went to work fighting for better pay and benefits for janitorial workers. In large part because of her work, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) recently won a tentative agreement for higher wages and health insurance, according to a story in Mother Jones.

Sandoval’s story points out one of the insidious aspects of breast cancer that the folks who organize National Breast Cancer Awareness Month gloss right over. One of the most cost effective ways to decrease mortality from this (and every other) disease would be to provide prompt and appropriate care to every patient, regardless of income and insurance. But that would not be profitable for the drug companies…


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