Angela Giraldo, CMA (AAMA), had been working as a medical transcriptionist for nearly 25 years when she began feeling exhausted.

“I was 56 years old and thought maybe it was just me getting older and being overweight that was making me tired. I thought maybe I was having heart trouble,” says Giraldo.

To be sure, she visited a physician in August 2010, and to her surprise, she learned she had low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“I almost passed out. I can’t tell you the shock you go through when you hear something like that,” she says.

Giraldo went through two years of chemotherapy, every six months, each session lasting a month. During that time, many physicians, nurses, and medical assistants cared for her.

“Toward the end of my chemo run, someone new took care of me, and I asked her what her job title was,” she recalls. “She told me she had just graduated from medical assisting school, and I thought to myself ‘This is what I want to do because now I know what it’s like to be on the other side, and I know I can help people.’”

In 2010 Giraldo began the medical assisting program at Medvance Institute (now called Fortis Institute) in Port St. Lucie, Florida. During this time, she was undergoing chemotherapy. Still, she says school was a great experience.

“Going back to school in my 50s was a blast because all the people were younger, and I made new friends and learned so many new things. It wasn’t hard to get back into it,” says Giraldo. “I’d tell anyone who’s considering changing careers later in life to go for it.”

Her transcription experience helped with studying, she notes. And despite her appendix bursting during her last course on electrocardiograms (ECGs), Giraldo managed to graduate in October 2012 with honors.

While she was recouping from appendicitis, she came across a job opening at an internal medicine gastroenterology office, applied for the position, and got called for an interview.

“They liked my qualifications, but I told them I had to do my externship somewhere, so I’d take the job without pay,” says Giraldo.

She finished her externship there and was hired on as a full-time medical assistant after she graduated in October 2012. Her primary duties included checking patients in and out as well as performing blood work and ECGs. Once she got her X-ray license, she also performed limited-scope radiography.

The most rewarding part of her job, though, was when she would sit in the room while the physician delivered difficult news to patients.

“When someone was just diagnosed with cancer, the doctor would call me in for support. I’d share my personal story of going through cancer, and I’d tell them there’s hope,” says Giraldo. “Their initial response was like shell-shock, and they’d cry. But by the time I finished telling them my story, they usually calmed down. I think it gave some perspective.”

Despite the difficult times on the job, Giraldo says the office was a unique place. So she contacted her friend who is a Hollywood producer and pitched the idea of a reality television show.

“The doctor has a unique personality. He even had his poodles in the office, and the different personalities throughout the office made it a fun and nontypical place to work,” says Giraldo. “My friend came out with a film crew and filmed a pilot. He’s still trying to sell it in [Los Angeles].”

The pilot is available online at https://vimeo.com/109915687.

However, after six years at the practice, Giraldo recently took a new position with an orthopedic group, where she mainly takes medical histories and vitals.

“It was time to move on. No matter where I work, interacting with patients and helping them physically as well as mentally by putting them at ease is what I love most,” she says. “Bringing patients peace of mind and compassion and a place to vent is what I bring to any office.”