My Mother's Story

Northwestern Medicine
Cancer Care/Oncology May 20, 2014
I would like to tell you a story about my mother, Aurora Serrato. She had never been ill before she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on her 78th birthday. It was devastating news. 

A friend of mine that’s a nurse advised us to go to an academic center for her treatment. That same night I was on the phone making appointments at Northwestern. I had the luck of all luck and got Linda Feldmann on the phone who made everything so much easier for us that night and going forward, as one of the nurses who helped my mother and our family.

Whenever I tell people that my mother had pancreatic cancer, everyone just gives a sigh and says they are sorry. It gives me great pleasure to say that she is with us today and to see they are amazed. Pancreatic cancer was always a death sentence, but with the advances in chemotherapy, radiation therapy, research and clinical trials, hope is so great. One thing we learned through this experience is that without hope there is nothing. I am so proud of my mother, and so grateful, to Dr. Mary Mulcahy, Dr. David Bentrem, and all the doctors and nurses at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

When we ask my mother about her childhood in Mexico she shies away from the subject. It brings her such sadness that she doesn’t like to talk about it, but a few times she has. She told us that there was never any food to eat because they were very poor.

My favorite story, but the saddest, is when she talks about the Day of the Three Kings. Each year on January 6, children in Mexico place their shoe overnight at the entrance to their home or on a ledge, and in the morning they find a present inside. Our mother says she’d leave her shoe on a ledge for days and the Three Kings never left a gift for her.

Ironically, my mother’s Whipple surgery in 2007 was on January 5, the day before Three Kings Day. The point of my telling this story now is that thanks to Dr. Bentrem our mother — who is now 85 years old — got the greatest gift of all on that holiday, the gift of life.

(We lost my father to stomach cancer in April 2014. I can’t tell my family’s story without including him. He fought a good fight and always remained faithful in the process. I am proud of him, and though I hope I never have to go through the same experience, I hope I am as strong.)

Aurora’s daughter, Silvia Escobedo, and many other members of the Serrato family will honor their mother and remember their father June 1st at the 21st Annual Cancer Survivors’ Celebration Walk & 5K in Chicago’s Grant Park. Runners and walkers will see Aurora’s photo, featured as one of the “Faces of Cancer” banners along the lakefront route. Register to join them here.