TNCC student’s mother motivates her to a future in medicine


Published: May 12, 2009

The Daily Press

Watching her mother succumb to cancer at age 48 sent Yomaris Velez Delgado into a tailspin of grief in 2005. But the grief eventually coiled itself into a new sense of purpose.

The loss forced her to take a hard look at her own children’s future, and propelled her from working as a hairstylist to completing her first step toward becoming a doctor. On Friday, the 31-year-old Velez Delgado will graduate from Thomas Nelson Community College with two associate’s degrees.

Married at 16 in her native Puerto Rico, Velez Delgado had two children by the time her 46-year-old mother in Virginia was diagnosed with breast cancer. While her husband had to stay behind, in 2004, Velez Delgado moved to Hampton, where she found herself taking care of her ailing mother, two teenage sisters and her own kids by herself at age 26. After her mother’s death, Velez Delgado grieved terribly before picking herself up.

“Basically I just said OK, I need to do something with my life so that my kids are taken care of in the event of …” Velez Delgado said.

Her mother, Margie Ammons, had risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Army before retiring. “She was my inspiration. God gave me all the strength that I need to get through this, but she was my inspiration.

“I just said OK, let’s try school. I always was interested in science. I really like medicine, and I feel passionate about babies, so I decided to go ahead and go into the medical field specializing in OB/GYN.”

Setting a major goal came from deep consideration of the possibility of the family’s history of cancer affecting her.

“Sometimes we let ourselves get involved in the daily routine and just the daily hassles. They seem so big,” Velez Delgado said. “But when you see somebody that was so strong, so determined, so full of life and still young — she turned 48 the week that she died.

“It put things into perspective as to what really is important in my life. I know that I’m responsible for two other human beings and I need to provide for them, ultimately.”

She decided she needed a career that would make a more comfortable future for her children, and provide for them to go to college.

After a semester at Strayer University, Velez Delgado enrolled at TNCC in 2006. She double-majored in science and social science and had a 3.45 grade point average in early May. A part-time job on campus paid for six credit hours at a time, and financial aid covered the rest.

She managed her whirlwind schedule by getting through each day little by little, and worrying about the next when it arrived.

“That’s how I’ve been able to cope and manage everything, because it gets really overwhelming,” Velez Delgado said. “I don’t know sometimes how I manage it, but he’s my strength. God gives me strength.”

She plans to take the fall semester off before transferring to either the College of William and Mary or Christopher Newport University to major in biology and minor in psychology, followed by medical school.

Friday’s graduation will carry mixed emotions because work and school have kept her from spending as much time with her kids as she would like, Velez Delgado said. She had to spend extra time studying because she has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Even so, she feels good about setting a goal and attaining it.

“But it’s kind of sad at the same time that I can’t share it physically with my Mom,” Velez Delgado said. “I know that she’s looking on and I know that, in a way, she has made it possible for me to get to where I am. So it’s kind of bittersweet.”

She plans to leave her graduation tassels at her mother’s grave.



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