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From the Battlefield to the Battle Within

Breast Cancer Survivor and Son
Breast Cancer Survivor and Son

In a vibrant dance between tradition and transformation. Operation Enduring Freedom U.S. Air Force Veteran Ruth Muniz emerged from the hustle & bustle of the Bronx, NY to the disciplined ranks of the military, only to confront and defeat an unforeseen adversary, breast cancer.

Though, thousands of Puerto Ricans have aided and fought alongside American colonists as early as the Revolutionary War, for Ruth’s Puerto Rican family it was still considered taboo for a woman to put on a uniform and pick up arms for the service of her country. These cultural barriers empowered her that much more to enlist as a bold opportunity to step outside of social norms and discover her greater purpose.

Of all the lessons learned from service, resiliency was ingrained in her like a tattoo. This mindset proved instrumental when she later confronted her diagnosis of breast cancer, propelling her to confront the disease head-on.

Despite an intuition that something was amiss after a mammogram, the formal diagnosis still struck Ruth deeply. As a mother to her only son, she says, “I remember in that moment grappling with concerns about my mortality and the future of my son as a single parent.”

With support from her close-knit family to her VA health care team, she says with a sigh of relief, “I never felt alone in my battle with breast cancer. I don't think I would have made it, had it not been for my VA saving my life. They did not treat me as a number.”

The initial life-threatening diagnosis clouded her mind with nightmares of no longer being by her son’s side. All of these thoughts instantly vanished once she connected with the VA to discover a comprehensive suite of resources ranging from genetic testing to emotional support groups.

No longer is her personal calendar crowded with medical appointments, instead her professional calendar is scheduled helping her fellow Veteran brothers and sisters as a VA Patient Advocate.  

As an employee of the biggest integrated healthcare system, it is inevitable to be bias that the care provided is among the best, but once seated in the patient chair and experiencing the process firsthand, she now has an experience that heightens her understanding to Veterans.

As a patient, she says, “I have such a good relationship with my primary care team that I've never had a relationship like this with any of my providers in my entire life. The VA is the way.”

From one Veteran breast cancer survivor to others battling, she urges Veterans during this Breast Cancer Awareness Month to remember their strengths.

With a firm tone Ruth says, “You are going to make it out stronger than you were before. You are really going to know who has your back. Always build a connection with your primary care team, and most importantly, do not give up. You're going to make it through this.”

To learn about the health services offered across the West Palm Beach VA Healthcare System visit: