Kindness, A Simple Act. An Act of Magnitude: Eliot Espinal

“You saved my life.” When was the last time that you heard those words from someone? Those exact words have been said to Eliot numerous times. Yet, every time that he hears them, he is surprised at how he has affected others, because Eliot believes that he is just doing his job. I believe that he’s doing more than that. He’s giving cancer patients the will to fight, whether it’s purposely or not. This is a story of a healer, who’s kind character, and his ability to walk cancer patients through the radiation process effectively has helped many battle this awful disease.

Healers are people who care about other’s physical and spiritual well being, and they don’t always need to be MDs. Eliot is a Patient Care Representative at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center — the world’s oldest and largest private cancer center. He’s dealt with many people from different walks of life such as powerful CEOs to everyday people. As we know, cancer is not biased towards anyone’s race or status in life. Neither is Eliot. He remembers all of his patients by their first name, and treats them the same no matter who they are. Most of his patients are shocked that he remembers them when they walk in for treatment. Although it’s a simple act to Eliot, it makes a huge impact on others and how they feel, especially when they’re so vulnerable.

I met Eliot at a salsa event in June of 2011, and ramdonly ran into him at a wedding a few months later. We met once again at a party, and we had a conversation about angels. I thought it was strange that I was sharing my thoughts on energy and angels helping me through difficult times with someone that I barely knew. However, that random conversation reminded me that there were others in this world who believed in what I had experienced. Eliot shared his own experiences about his angels. This conversation empowered me, and it helped me feel not-so-crazy. I knew then that I had encountered a spiritual being — someone that wasn’t afraid to speak about God and miracles.

That randomness, or let’s call it synchronicity, repeated itself a few weeks later at another event where I met a woman who shared that her daughter had been a patient at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. She told me about a staff member named Eliot with an amazing soul whom she said “had saved her daughter’s spirit.” Her words were so powerful. I shared with her that it was such a small world, because I knew who she was talking about.

I didn’t fully comprehend what she was referring to when she said that Eliot had saved her daughter’s spirit, until I experienced it with my mom and her breast cancer treatment. There was an extraordinary staff member at Coney Island hospital that helped her not just with care instructions, but reminded my mom to have faith in God. She began to pray with her. My mom cried, and prayed hard. I realized then that the team who’s around the fearful, but hopeful patients, really do make a huge difference in their healing process by figuring out what they need at the moment.

Eliot says that he doesn’t pray with his patients, but that he tries to understand their needs. He still remembers his first patient who affected him greatly, and describes her as “a beautiful caring soul that believed in all that earth had to give.” Unfortunately, she lost her battle with cancer. He’s watched so many like her go over the years, but has felt her loss deeply.

Unfortunately, cancer is not foreign to Eliot’s personal story. Eleven years ago his mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through treatment, and is blessed to be with her family now. At the time he was not working with cancer patients. However, three years later, he began working at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. Although it may seem random, sometimes the beauty of synchronicity can’t be denied. I believe that it’s a beautiful thing for him to be in a similar role of someone that once ago helped save his mother.

I’ve asked him what he thinks makes people fight for their lives, and he claims that it’s their personal strength. Yet, I know part of their strength is him. His spirit, kindness, and his own belief that they will survive is something that does not come in a bottle.

As the wise Rumi once wrote, “through love all pain will turn into medicine.” We know that medicine alone can’t cure a person. Therefore, we simply want to say thank you to Eliot — and all of the Eliots out there — whom with simple acts of kindness and caring have immensely impacted the healing of so many affected by cancer.

P.S. October is breast cancer month. I dedicate this story to Eliot’s mom, Maria Torres, and all of the courageous women and men affected by this disease.

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