For First Class Petty Officer Mercedes Rangel, three words forever changed her life … You have cancer.
Years before this difficult news, Mercedes had joined the Navy with a desire to “serve my country and be able to help support my family,” she said, a mission she faithfully fulfilled in her dedication to preserving our nation’s freedom throughout her three deployments overseas.
But while stationed in Texas, Mercedes received a life-changing diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt Lymphoma, a very serious form of lymphatic cancer. Immediately, she began treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center, where she soon encountered Semper Fi & America’s Fund and was offered immediate and lasting assistance during this extremely difficult journey.
“Semper Fi & America’s fund was there to help my family and I to cope and maintain normalcy during my treatments, especially during the holidays,” said Mercedes.
The Fund provided family support grants to Mercedes’ parents that allowed them to remain at her bedside throughout six months of chemotherapy and 16 rounds of spinal intrathecal administration — treatments that were administered via injection into her spinal canal to further fight her cancer.
Throughout Mercedes’ medical journey, The Fund provided vital care, including offsetting the cost of mortgage payments and travel to and from doctor’s appointments, as well as providing specialized kits to help Mercedes sleep better and heal from the harsh side effects of her treatments. As Mercedes continued to fight this awe-inspiring battle with The Fund and her loving parents always by her side, she began to believe in the power of an all-encompassing support system — something her Fund family became for Mercedes during her hardest moments.
Each day, Mercedes continues to grow stronger by lifting weights to stay both physically and mentally strong, and she’s currently working toward a second bachelor’s degree with an emphasis on cybersecurity. An example of fortitude and strength, Mercedes’ courage, hope, and gratitude for the support she’s received shines as a bright example of what it looks like to stand hand-in-hand with those around her.
“It is completely okay to ask for help and use the programs offered to you,” said Mercedes. “I was always so stubborn, and I finally realized that programs like Semper Fi & America’s Fund, doctors, family, and friends may not remove the pain but help you navigate through it … The Fund to me is an extension of my family.”