Doctors told Gloria Estrada she probably had six months to live. As if that weren’t enough, the chemotherapy coursing through her veins to stave off her stage 4 colon cancer was also damaging the nerves in her hands and legs, leaving her with debilitating pain and depression.

But eight years later, Estrada has defied predictions. Her cancer is in remission, and she can walk again — with the help of a cane — around her Boyle Heights neighborhood in Los Angeles. Estrada credits her recovery to her medical team and her “angel”: Ghecemy Lopez, a cancer navigation specialist at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Lopez helps cancer patients juggle their treatments in an often complicated health care system and bolsters their spirits. “This is not a job,” Lopez explains. “This is my mission.”

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