HOUSTON, Texas — Angely Roman Ithier came to Houston from Puerto Rico for cancer treatment.
She's been cooped up for months so when her brother came to visit, she was excited about their road trip to San Antonio.
But a gas station pit stop along the way cast a shadow on the rest of the trip.
“It was very hurtful," Angely said.
At first glance, you'd never guess anything is wrong with Angely. But if you take time to know her, you'd learn her backpack is feeding her medication and her pixie cut is a wig.
The only thing that sets her apart is the mask she wears as a precaution because the cancer treatment lowers her immune system.
“They recommend me, anytime I go outside where there’s a lot of public, I wear a face mask because I can not get any flu or symptoms," Angely explained.
A couple inside the gas station assumed Angely was wearing the mask because of fear over the coronavirus. She overheard them laughing and making fun of her.
“Right at that moment, he passed by and he went 'achew,' and he sneezes and I was like, 'what?'” Angely said.
She said the couple pretended to sneeze on her.
“Just ignorant that they just think she was trying to avoid the coronavirus, without actually knowing why she was wearing a face mask," Angely's brother Ricardo Roman Ithier said.
"Then I just went to her and I said, 'You know what? You know why I wear a face mask? Because I have cancer,'" Angely said.
“And they just left. They didn’t want to, like, get into a confrontation so they just like avoided the whole thing," Ricardo said.
Then, the anger turned to pain.
“Every day, we struggle with our mind and how we feel and to go outside, and to be exposed to that kind of jokes, it's not funny. Nobody deserves that," Angely said. “I felt ashamed of going out because you feel different, and I do all the time."
“To me, it really got me frustrated, just seeing her cry," Ricardo said.
Angely said even if she she didn't have cancer and was worried about getting Coronavirus, the jokes and judgment were unkind.
“Treat people with respect but also be kind to people. You don’t know how that person woke up that morning," Angely said. "You don’t know what a person is going through."