By: Aixa M. Rivera
A lot of patients wait their turn to go to Dr. Rodríguez’s office. From the outside, people from all ages can be seen. A woman, as young as 17 years said to me “ I come here every two weeks, is close to home and better than going to San Juan.” She lives in Utuado. Aixa is one of the best doctors in her specialty. She is an oncologist with offices in Manatí , Bayamón and Arecibo. Despite her hard job, she laughs copiously. She can be heard all over the office as she talks to her patients.
Aixa Enid Rodríguez was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico in June 29, 1964. She’s the oldest of three children and the only female. She’s the mother of two daughters. Her childhood wasn’t the best. Aixa grew up in a “very dysfunctional family” and a very hostile environment. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother was absent from her everyday life since she worked at a factory. She recalls that she grew up struggling and fighting.
The environment at school was totally different. Aixa had very good grades and participated in everything at school. “I preferred to be at school than at home so everything I could participate in , for example being in the Girl Scouts, being in the church choir or just helping out my teachers, I did.” Aixa’s most reliable source of support was Wanda, her best friend since she was 5 years old. “We both were in similar situations. We lived in the same neighborhood and we were each other’s support all the way to college.”
She attended the University of Puerto Rico- Mayagüez campus. In college, she finally got away from her family. Even though she faced struggles financially and academically, everything was better that being back home.
“My parents didn’t understand what was being in college. They finished high school and they went straight to work because of their situations in life. I think this was when my life changed.” Aixa’s struggles weren’t only financial but also cultural. She was accustomed to a certain type of person, since she was from a small sector in Caguas. “Going into the Colegio, I never thought there would be so many different types of people in such a small island.”
Even though she was a child, she had always felt the need to help others and put people’s needs before her own. “What most attracted me to being a Girl Scout when I was a child was that I saw the girls helping out in school or at nursing homes and I always found that to be a beautiful quality, wanting to help others.”
At the National University of Mexico, where she studied medicine, surprisingly was when she was the happiest. She was finally studying medicine and was one step closer to achieving her goal: becoming a doctor. “I thought this place was where I would encounter the culture shockbut, surprisingly, Puerto Ricans stuck together and I felt right at home.”
José Contreras, Aixa’s business associate, for the past 12 years describes her as “sensitive, strong and persevering.” He admires her and considers her unique.
“I remember one time she woke up at 1:00 a.m. and called me just to see if I could come with her from Dorado to Utuado to leave a prescription for pain medicine due to the cancer treatment for a patient. She said that even if I wasn’t going she was going to go. That was one of many times because she has done it in other occasions for patients. I think she does it because she is always thinking of others and their well being.”
Aixa, however, considers she has one important weakness: she prefers to do everything herself and doesn’t trust other people to help her, which is a complication for conducting business and having associates.
She’s aware that many people choose medicine as their vocation because of its economic remuneration. However, that was not her case. “I chose this profession because since I was a little girl I have always felt the need to help other people. Since I began my profession my way of being has changed because I have a better understating of the needs of my patients, because even though I heal them, I listen to them and make them feel like they matter. This is an important quality when dealing with patients, it makes you a more sensible person and more compassionate.”
References: Jose Contreras: Aixa’s business associate
Hilda Vazquez: Aixa’s mother