DALLAS—Eric Virrueta leaned down and stroked his mother’s head to wake her, but as his little hand went through her hair, he was left with a fist full of it.
“My son didn’t understand what was happening to me,” Consuelo Virrueta said. “He would ask me, ‘Are you going to die?’ I’d say, ‘No, I’m not going to die, because God wants me here with you.’”
Virrueta attends the Mothers of Preschoolers program at the Buckner Vickery Wellness Center , a ministry designed to help mothers of young children through relationships established in local groups.
When she learned she had cancer, Virrueta said she was sure she would die. But her greatest worries centered on her children, Daniela, 3, and Eric, 10.
“Daniela would kiss my cheeks when my hair fell out,” she said. “And it would encourage me. But my children are so young.”
Virrueta was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2006 at age 33. MOPS members at Vickery began praying for her as soon as she received the troubling diagnosis.
Viurueta said her sickness helped draw her nearer to her family and especially to God.
“Sometimes I’d say, ‘God, if I have to die, let me die, but let me always be close to You,’” she said. “We need to put ourselves in God’s hands and let Him do His work.”
Sindy Smith, a member Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, started driving Virrueta to doctors’ appointments when she lacked a ride and has provided babysitting for Daniela when Virrueta underwent treatment.
Smith is one of several women from Park Cities who is involved in MOPS at Vickery.
“I’d pick her up from treatment, and she would fall asleep on the ride back,” Smith said. “Sometimes, I’d have to carpool for the kids, and she would still sleep through everything. She was that tired.”
Park Cities MOPS members often brought Virrueta dinner so she wouldn’t have to cook, but she insists that the emotional support she received from them was the biggest blessing.
“Her illness helped the ladies bond by coming together to support and encourage her,” said Maria Pacheco, coordinator of the Vickery Family Wellness Center. “Some of the women helped her with her children and with daily chores. The women dropped their pretenses and were real with one another.”
“From the very first meeting all the women, including MOPS volunteers, were very open. And this created a very real connection between the women,” Pacheco said. “Many people in this community are isolated, and this group was a way of bringing them together.
“I have seen (Virrueta) change a lot in the last year,” she added. “And I believe God is raising leaders within the community to help change that community.”
At a recent MOPS meeting, Virrueta shared her testimony and smiled when the MOPS members complimented her head full of curly, black hair. She is no longer undergoing chemotherapy and now just goes for regular checkups.
“It’s my relationship with God that kept me going,” she said. “Without him, I am nothing. The peace that he gave me couldn’t come from anywhere else.
“And I am so grateful for the MOPS ladies. They are a part of my family. God put angels in my path.”