Imelda’s Breast Cancer Story
Oct 30, 2023
Sutter Health
Portrait of Imelda Martinez

By Anita Creamer, Vitals contributor


It was eight years ago. Imelda Martinez was in great shape, training for a half-marathon and working out. One leg was chronically painful, but she expected aches and pains. She took ibuprofen and had massages, but the leg didn’t improve.

When she called her primary care physician’s office, the doctor saw her the same day. An X-ray and MRI followed shortly.

“I got a call, and they said, ‘Stay off your leg, it’s ready to break,’” says Martinez, a diagnostic imaging recruiter on Sutter Health’s Talent Acquisition team. “Meanwhile, they delivered a wheelchair.”

Martinez, it turned out, had breast cancer, which had metastasized to her femur, lungs, liver and sternum. She makes it her mission to praise her Sutter care and advocate for breast cancer screening every day, but especially during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

As she said recently in a LinkedIn post:

“I’m not just the recruiter. I’m also the patient. I’m grateful for the amazing care team that did not hesitate to X-ray my leg and order an MRI. Within about 10 days, I was having surgery. Despite the cancer, I’m thriving for eight years now. When your doctor recommends that screening, get it done! #TeamSutter.”

Portrait of Dr. Melissa J. Williams

Dr. Melissa J. Williams

When she says diagnosed, she says, “I was in shock. I started to do research. You downward spiral into all the information about metastatic breast cancer.”

Her Sutter Health family rallied around her with support—and referrals to a top Sutter breast cancer oncologist, Dr. Melissa J. Williams.

“I did not accept the fact that I had Stage IV breast cancer until I heard it from Dr. Williams,” says Martinez. “She confirmed the diagnosis. We talked about a treatment plan.”

And over time, her treatment at Sutter Medical Center Sacramento and Sutter Alta Bates Summit Medical Center worked. For the past two years, Martinez’s scans have shown no evidence of active disease.

“What’s given me the most hope is knowing I was working with an organization that’s giving me care,” she says. “I knew I had the best of the best caring for me.”

“With Sutter, I never felt I had to fight for the care I needed. It was seamless care. Sutter Health took care of me.”


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