AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Police Officer Frank Rodriguez got the news while on an overtime assignment.
“It was like a punch in the gut,” said Lt. Rodriguez. His daughter, Dolores, was diagnosed with colon cancer for the second time in October. “I couldn’t believe it, there was no way.”
After receiving the devastating news, his fellow officers came together in support of him and his family. They held a barbecue to raise money for her treatment.
On Thursday, he and the mother of a two and 4-year-old had the chance to say, “thank you.” “I had no idea that they were gonna do that and the amount of effort and work that it took and then not only their work but the response from the rest of the department,” Rodriguez explained. “Including the chief, came by here so when I saw him walking up, it was touching.”
“Just the fact that he has all these people supporting him is amazing and I just am so grateful,” Dolores said. “That man doesn’t sit down, he’s all over the place and thinking about everybody else but himself and I know it’s hard to see him go through this because no one wants to see their own kid suffering.”
Rodriguez served in the military and has been with the Austin Police Department for 26 years. Despite that, he said he still doesn’t know where Dolores finds her strength. “Nothing compares to what she’s done and what she’s going through,” said Rodriguez. “How she keeps it together she just amazes me.”
The first time Dolores was diagnosed in 2017, she learned the cancer had spread to her liver.
“The chances that the chemo or radiation was gonna do anything, the doctors weren’t very confident that it was gonna help, she said. “But God is amazing.”
She beat the odds.
“I was supposed to be gone within six months, I was supposed to have a colostomy bag for the rest of my life, I was supposed to get my colon completely taken away, and when they went back to check and see what the tumor looked like, the doctor himself was like, ‘In the years that I have been working I have never seen anything like this in my life, there’s no signs of a tumor at all.'”
But in October, she got heartbreaking news. The cancer had spread to both of her lungs, giving her no chances for surgery.
“Can you imagine sitting there and they’re telling you again that you’re gonna die in six months, it’s kind of like, I don’t believe it. There’s no way, that’s what they said the last time.”
Her kids came to mind.
“It’s not fun making videos for your kids for their milestones in their lives, that’s the hardest part,” she said. “Wondering, am I gonna be here for their graduation or when they get married? But if it’s God’s will, I honestly am at peace with it.”
She thought back to that day of her first diagnosis, when her doctors walked in to explain what her treatment plan would be. “They asked me, do you believe in God?” she remembered. “‘Cause chemo is only gonna get you so far but God will get you through this.”
She struggled with her faith her whole life up until that point, but said it’s what has gotten her to this point.
“I know I’m here to bring people closer to God and to show people His miracles because I should have been gone a long time ago and I’m not, I’m still here and I’m still fighting and I’m not gonna give up,” she said.
Now, she’s using her experiences to help others in her situation to keep fighting. She’s shared her cancer journey on Facebook and been open about signs to look for, battles she’s faced with her insurance and encouraging people to listen to their bodies. “My purpose here, I know why I’m here, I know it’s to spread awareness,” she said.
“Maybe one day it will make it easier for the next person and plus we’re always gonna have that with us if her disease continues,” Officer Rodriguez said.
Dolores has raised $14,000 of her $25,000 goal through her Go Fund Me page.
“A motivational speaker instilled something in my head at church one day. He says cancer can either make you bitter or better. And everyone has a type of cancer in their life, whether it’s cancer or not. Everybody has something that they’re dealing with, that they’re fighting over, that they’re trying to get through and it can either make you bitter or it can make you better, so I chose to be better and I want everyone to know that you can always choose to be better. You don’t always have to be bitter and mad at the world and just upset. It’s how you look at things and it’s how you choose to live your life.”Dolores Rodriguez