On Dec. 5, 2013, Alejandro Velez will not be celebrating his success in business, show business, or even in education. Although he has reason to do all three, he is commemorating 11 years since he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Velez, a 25 year-old entrepreneur of Colombian descent, a graduate of the University of California, Berkley, and a contestant on “The Bachelorette,” was diagnosed when he was only a teenager.
From his home in San Francisco, he told EXTRA about the time he visited the doctor as a child for a sports injury, and mentioned a lump near his armpit. His doctor immediately tested it and found him to have Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer that affects the body’s ability to fight infection. During treatment, his classmates shaved their heads in solidarity.
Alejandro made a full recovery and continued on to college. Soon after, he and a colleague, Nikhil Arora, started Back to the Roots, an idea which germinated from an experiment to grow organic mushrooms on discarded coffee grounds and blossomed into a line of sustainable products. On Dec. 5, 11 percent of the proceeds of their sales will go to the Livestrong Foundation.
Because Alejandro was fortunate enough to have health insurance, he was diagnosed and treated quickly. Today, he encourages anyone to look into the Affordable Care Act (www.cuidadodesalud.gov), and the real benefits for all those living without health care coverage. It could mean the difference between life and death.
“Many times we may not seek treatment, especially men, because we think it’s the macho thing to do, to tough it out. But there is no need to do that. Even if you have a pre-existing condition, even as severe as cancer, you can’t be turned away from health care coverage,” said Velez referring to the new Affordable Care Act.
Alejandro’s many achievements would not have been possible without a full recovery. That’s why he is so passionate about telling others his survival story and encouraging those without medical insurance to seek coverage, which is now available to everyone, in all communities, and tailored for all budgets.
“Even though we may fear change as a community,” he said, “we must take ownership of our own health, and with the Affordable Care Act, it is now accessible.” Because of health insurance, the Livestrong Foundation, and the care and support of his family and community, Velez can work to accomplish many more things.
Velez received free cancer support services from the LIVESTRONG Foundation, which provides emotional, practical and legal help to anyone affected by cancer.
To find out more about the Livestrong Foundation and the free cancer support as well as more about the Affordable Care Act, visit: www.livestrong.org.
This post is also available in: Spanish