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Diagnosed with Cancer at Age 23

At 23, Maria Gomez was diagnosed with cancer one month before she was scheduled to graduate with a Masters degree in taxation. Uninsured, she feared for the worst, but found hope through the Affordable Care Act's Pre-Existing Insurance Plan.

It is October of 2010. I am getting ready to graduate from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. Even more exciting for me, I am elected to be part of the Homecoming Court for my outstanding involvement and dedication to our university and local community and for my exemplary character. To top off an incredible month, I  received a job offer from one of the four big accounting firms. Everything was great. I never thought my life would take such a turn. 

A year later, I am finishing a Masters degree in taxation and working part time at the accounting firm when I feel pain in my left ankle. I visit several doctors who tell me the pain came from running and/or working out.  Then, on April 26, 2012, my life changed. I received a diagnosis of Ewings Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Instead of tendonitis from running, the pain I felt  was a cancerous tumor in my left ankle that had spread to various parts of my body. 

At the time of my diagnosis, a student a month away from graduation, I was uninsured. For a while I feared the worst. I pictured myself dying at home, because I didn’t have the money to afford the very expensive treatment I needed. At this moment in my young life, I felt true desperation. I wanted to live and continue to give back to my community, which always made me happy, but I didn’t even know what to do to take care of my health and survive. 

It was a blessing when I found out about the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, or PCIP through the Affordable Care Act because it was an answer to my prayers and desperation. PCIP is a program designed to provide affordable health coverage for people like me who were otherwise locked out of the private insurance system. It also serves as a bridge to 2014, when insurance companies are prohibited from refusing to sell coverage based on someone’s pre-existing condition.

Shortly after I learned about this special plan and gained health insurance, I began my chemotherapy treatments.  Now, it’s been a little over a year since my diagnosis. I’m still here and still fighting for my life. I hope to soon be in full recovery, to return to the person I love to be, one that gets great satisfaction from helping others. 

The Affordable Care Act and the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance program help me access medical coverage when I need it. So I don’t have to worry if I have an injury, or an illness, or an accident, that my finances won’t be turned upside down by health care costs.   

Maria Gomez is a graduate from Arizona State University and a federal tax associate at an international accounting firm. She is our first guest blogger for our Hispanic Heritage Month series on Securing Our Future: Access to Quality Health Coverage.

To learn more about the Affordable Care Act, visit or and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #OurSalud