MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Cancer patients will tell you treatment can be isolating at times. Hours spent undergoing chemotherapy tend to drag on.
But one woman who has firsthand experience is doing her part to help bring smiles to patients’ faces while sharing her story of survival.
“How are you?” Gisenia Reyes says as she walks into yet another hospital room.
With her bright orange T-shirt and sunny smile, Gisenia brings a dose of positivity wherever she goes.
“These are some goodies to get you through chemo therapy treatment,” she says to a woman in the middle of her second round of treatment which will keep her in the hospital for more than a month.
Gisenia knows what that’s like. She’s been through it herself.
“I was focused on my dreams, studying, working. Once I was diagnosed in October 2015, my life was at a halt,” she told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana.
Gisenia says a sudden, throbbing pain in her knee prompted her to get checked out.
After a series of tests, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive type of blood cancer.
“My mom also passed away of cancer in 2004 and I never thought that I would find myself in the same shoes 10 years later,” she said.
Gisenia’s shoes just happen to be strappy stilettos.
In a video shot during her chemo treatment at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Gisenia is seen dancing to Pitbull music through the halls of the cancer ward, IV stand not far behind.
The video illustrates her positive spirit, which she shared on social media throughout her cancer battle.
“The transplant was a success and I am cancer free,” she said in one video.
She’s a survivor and she has a familiar face to thank.
“I was fortunate enough to have a twin sister, Lucy, that has rallied and supported me along the way,” Gisenia said. “She has played such an integral role that I am able to be here today. She was my stem cell donor. She basically saved my life. She was my perfect match.”
Now the sisters have teamed up again, to bring hope and happiness to patients.
They created “We Care Chemo Kits”, an organization that makes care packages — similar to one Gisenia received from a friend during treatment — for people going through one of the toughest seasons of their lives.
“It was definitely a season of growth. Going through chemotherapy is not easy,” Gisenia said.
“I am truly proud of you. Very proud,” Lucy added. “To take something so painful and turn it into something so beautiful to help others.”
Recently, Gisenia’s fellow Florida International University classmates assembled some of the kits, which include inspirational messages, water bottles, hand sanitizer, socks, get well cards, and activities like coloring books and word puzzles to help pass the time.
Now, Gisenia returns to Sylvester, Chemo Kit in tow.
“With this chemo kit we want you to know you don’t fight alone,” she tells one patient.
She’s not just delivering a bag full of useful goodies, she’s also sharing her personal story in hopes of inspiring others.
“This is me,” she told one patient as she removed her wig, revealing hair that is still growing back after chemo. “There’s hope on the other side. You’ll be out of here soon and we can have a ladies night out.”
Gisenia credits her faith and family with helping her become such a fearless survivor.
Only other survivors can deliver the kits. Gisenia says having that living, breathing hope for the future staring a cancer patient in the face is helpful.
All the items in the “We Care Chemo Kits” are donated by members of the community. If you’d like to help, visit www.wecarechemokits.org.