My name is Xiomara “Sammie” Cabrera. I served 16 years in the United Stated Army National Guard. I joined in July of 1996. I had my firstborn son in March of 2000. My unit, 145th Maintenance Company, was activated on September 11, 2001 to serve at Ground Zero. I served there for about 7-8 months. The whole time with no protective gear. In 2004, we were deployed to Iraq.
I was now a part of Operation Enduring Freedom. We lived in tents before being transferred to trailers that were converted to 3 rooms, in that time we discovered where we’d be working. I was a placed with my squad working HVAC. We installed AC’s and AC compressors within Humvee’s, you should know temperatures reached 157°F (that was without our Kevlar, Bulletproof Vests, and weapons), plus the body heat of anyone who was in the up-armored vehicle with you. Temperatures could go up to 10°F-20°F higher than the outside temperature. I was not fortunate enough to stay doing just that. I was assigned several different duties, such as Tower Guard, Escort to the locals in which there several people considered local were permitted to work on the base-with escorts-about 10 assigned to a soldier, we worked alongside a radio station that was close to a burn pit (where they burned everything-including human feces), we had mortars going off just about every day, we were so close, you could feel the shock waves. I also was assigned to be a CQ runner because I could not go outside the wire, which was pointed out after I had already been on two---in sneakers.
I went to Medical while deployed several times with complaints of headaches, stomach pain-I had diarrhea for 6-7 months, feet pain-heel spurs, and hand pain, just to name a few. I had even gotten wrapped up in constantina wire from the top of my right thigh wrapped around both legs and through my sneakers. After each visit, I was given the normal routine of take two Naproxen and don’t call me in the morning, here’s your profile. They had at one point taken x-rays of my hand, but could not find anything. I was made to feel like all of my illnesses and pain were in my head. In January of 2006, I was finally back stateside.
The VA discovered what was wrong with my hand, my right thumb had no ligament and the joint cushion had begun to leak within my hand causing the swelling. I had to have surgery in May of 2007, to reconstruct the ligament in my hand, by taking two tendon pieces from my right forearm and threading them like a button by drilling holes within my thumb to hold it together like the ligament is supposed to do. I’ve had two children since then: My second born son in September of 2009, I had lost my daughter via miscarriage (he was supposed to be a twin) and in August of 2012 after attempting to lose an insurmountable amount of weight after suffering a bout of both Pneumonia and Bronchitis-it, the VA put me in quarantine until they could figure out what I had, I tried dieting and exercise (through constant pain in my stomach) to try to lose weight, but no matter what I did I could not lose the last 5-10lbs, so after 16 years of service. I did not re-enlist. I started suffering inordinate amount of pain in my hand again. Apparently I was pregnant with my daughter who was born a preemie in February of 2013. I ended up spending most of February in the hospital due to preeclampsia issues.
In the years that followed, I still brought up my stomach pain at the VA, which my primary doctor said was nothing more than a cyst in my lower abdomen, which was extremely warm to the touch. In June or August of 2016, I got struck with such a pain that I doubled over and could not walk straight, I was taken to Albert Einstein Hospital where they diagnosed me with a hernia and that I would need surgery to repair it---okay, I thought, finally I know what’s causing the pain. They scheduled me for November of 2016, but I could not do the surgery at that time so they moved it to February of 2017, they couldn’t get anything sooner because of the holidays, so I said okay and had the surgery done. The doctor discovered something weird with my appendix and sent it out for a biopsy, he figured I could live without an appendix. I went home 5 days after surgery with the hernia repaired and a lost appendix, but I had survived 5 surgeries (my hand, 3 cesarean sections, and this…I considered myself blessed) then came the phone call from the doctor it was a Wednesday, he needed me to return for surgery as the “weirdness” at the end of my appendix was actually stage 2 cancer and my right intestine would have to be removed as they found traces of the cancer with 7 of the 12 lymph nodes he had sent out for biopsy. I had to call my mom to sit with my sons again, the surgery was in 2 days, only because they needed me to fast a whole day before having the surgery, I had the second surgery within 10 days of the one I had just had. Now I was worried about possibly needing a colostomy bag as well as having cancer. I explained to my job I would need a second surgery and would not be returning as expected. They were very understanding. I had already had the paperwork from the first surgery approved so they extended my FMLA leave, but my FMLA paperwork had to be in by August of 2017.
After the surgery, I had to have Octreoscans (done over 3 days-with radioactive dye) and appointments to see how the stitches were coming along as he used the same incision but increased the height by a few inches. I had a slice about 6inches above my belly button to my cesarean section scars. I didn’t care though, I had been blessed with my life and I did not need chemotherapy. I was what is considered cancer free. In September of 2017, I was fired from my job due to non-attendance, because although I had gotten my papers in on time, the second and third doctors had not. They could not approve my second FMLA for this reason alone. I have been living off of my savings with my kids and was not able to keep up with the rent I am now 3 and ½ months behind in payments due to the fact that I was obtaining medical care and I was not able to work. Please help us keep our house.
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