Mercy Hiller has done what most of us dream of: she honored her mother in the most profound way and, in doing so, has changed the lives of so many more. In bold lettering atop the 21st Century Oncology building, the Marta A. Gonzalez Cancer Center is named for Hiller’s mother. It also serves as a testimony to the tremendous work Hiller has done for cancer patients in the Florida Keys. When Marta Gonzalez had to leave the only home she loved to receive treatment, and Hiller couldn’t bear for anyone else from her hometown to have to do the same.
When her mother lost her battle, Hiller switched career tracks from pediatric nurse to radiation technician and began the journey of bringing radiation and chemotherapy to thousands of Keys residents that previously was not available. She isn’t just the first Keys technician. She is also an administrator at 21st Century Oncology and co-founder of The Cancer Foundation of the Florida Keys, which aids cancer patients with financial assistance while undergoing treatment. Taking to heart the saying “Knowing what I know now,” Hiller has been at the helm in the battle against cancer in every way. She not only has honored her mother but so many residents giving them chance at life once not thought possible. With an infectious smile and amazing attitude, every day, Hiller does the most astonishing thing: she helps beat cancer.
Full Name? Mercy Hiller.
How did you decide to become a radiation technician? When my mother had to leave Key West for radiation treatment, I remember thinking this cannot happen to anyone else. She missed possible chances to prevent the cancer from spreading. I kept thinking, it didn’t have to happen this way. So I wanted to do something, and it was meant to be because I was 22, on the wait list that year, and still got into school. And by the time I was finished, a company wanted to open a clinic here and needed a technician.
What’s a misconception about cancer treatment? 21st Century Oncology is one of the largest cancer care centers in the U.S., which means the care that patients receive here is the exact same care they would receive in any other city. We follow all the protocols, our physicians are well trained, and most diagnoses we can treat, just a few we can’t. We are very lucky people can receive quality care here so patients never have to leave home.
Looking back 25 years, what do you reflect on? I have treated generations of families now and these are people I have known my whole life. People aren’t just patients here, they are family.
What’s on your bucket list? Traveling to the “Holy Land.”
Do you have a life credo or motto? Norman Vincent Peale’s “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”
What is it that you most dislike? People lying to me or anyone else.
Which TV, movie or superhero character is your alter ego? Wonder Woman.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Being a perfectionist.
Name three things you could not live without? A/C, food, some type of shelter.
If invisible, what would you do? Spy on all my friends.
On what occasion do you lie? About my weight.
Favorite guilty pleasure? Eating ice cream.
What job would you secretly love to have? FLOTUS.
Most important thing you tell your kids? “Always go after your passion in life.”
For lunch with one famous person, whom would you choose? Maya Angelou.
Finish these sentences …
My friends and family would describe me as … someone self-motivated, passionate, determined, organized.
My autobiography would be titled … “Ignore Your Limits and Count Your Blessings”
I can never refuse … helping others in need.
When I go, I will go …. and be ready.