I joined ACS in 2005 for a few months and then moved on to pursue another job opportunity. In that short few months, I learned so much of what ACS does and continues to do so well – help people fight and survive this dreaded disease! Right after I left ACS, my best friend Debbie was diagnosed with a brain tumor. At that time, my first thought was – I have to call the ACS 1-800 number to register her and see what ACS resources she can use to get her through this diagnosis.
She received transportation services while undergoing chemotherapy and she was able to talk to someone about her condition whenever she needed. I even told her about clinical trials that may be available. She was able to receive all the information and assistance about her illness quickly because I knew what to do and who to call. Sadly, there are still many people who do not know what services, help, and support we can provide.
I came back to American Cancer Society now more passionate than ever to ensure that more people know what we do and how we can help support those who are affected by cancer. This is in memory of my best friend, Debbie. I am thankful that I am working for the American Cancer Society. It has helped me bring awareness to my families and friends about the programs and services we provide.
For resources and support, log on to cancer.org or call 1-800-227-2345.
January 26, 2016 was the 7th anniversary of my pancreatic cancer operation, called the Whipple procedure and being in remission. Following the procedure, I went through 30 radiation and 18 chemotherapy sessions. There is reason to celebrate, as pancreatic cancer has a 95% mortality rate and only 5% of patients make it past five years of survival. I thank and praise God for my extra 7 years of “new” life.
In the summer of 2008, while sign waving for Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s re-election campaign, I lost 40 pounds. There were some articles in the paper about diabetes – type II, and I had all the symptoms – excessive thirst, frequent bathroom breaks, blurred vision, and unexpected weight loss. My doctor confirmed the diagnosis and I attended diabetes classes, started injecting insulin, and taking blood sugar readings four times a day. However, my doctor was still noticing high numbers for my liver and ordered a CT scan which showed a blockage in my pancreas. He ordered surgery right away. The Friday before surgery was when I learned it was the “Big C” – cancer. Fortunately, it was caught at Stage 1 and there was no sign it had spread.
Through all of this, I praised God for a successful operation, no pain, and a peace that passes all understanding. I want to thank Jesus for dying on the cross for forgiveness of my sins and for all sins, with the hope of eternal life. Since then I have been able to participate in the Great Aloha Run and I am an avid photographer so have donated my time and service to the American Cancer Society, taking photographs at almost all of their events on Oahu. Why the American Cancer Society? Because I can, I am DETERMINED.
No one should have to fight cancer alone, especially your children.
“I was in the prime of my life, entering the last semester of my senior year in college when I was diagnosed. The cancer had completely paralyzed me from the waist down. I was devastated,” stated Andre Jon “Dre” Rivera Castro,” Cathy’s son.
When Cathy’s son was diagnosed with cancer in his spine, she vowed that she would do everything possible to help him. Treatment and care was not available on Guam so they had to travel to California. She told him to concentrate on fighting the disease and she would fight everything else for him – finding resources, doctors, financial support, access to treatments, cancer information that would improve his quality of life.
A year and a half after surgery, they again returned to California for additional treatment. More complications arose and they remained there leaving their home for over a year. She sought out the American Cancer Society through their toll free number and explained their situation. They were living with family members but treatment was over 100 miles away. They would make the trek 2-3 times a week. The Society offered them transportation assistance and information on cancer, pain management, and available financial assistance. When the year was coming to an end, doctors felt Dre could return home and continue his Chemotherapy treatment there. The Society assisted Cathy and Dre while they transitioned back home by providing information, navigation and networking for this.
“My entire family means the world to me, so you can say that my maternal instinct has been my source of strength. I will stop at nothing to ensure that he gets the care and attention he needs,” stated Cathy.
Today, Cathy’s son is walking again thanks to the doctors, medical advancements, family support, faith in God, and the American Cancer Society. Dre continues treatment but the Society also continues to be there for him. She serves as a team captain for the Relay For Life of Guam, as well as the event lead for the Bring the People and co-lead for Survivor Team to help raise funds for the Society’s mission. In addition, she advocates for new legislative policy that will not only help improve her son’s quality of life, but will help open doors for others that may not have an advocate for themselves. She knows first-hand the struggles of those battling cancer and on their families and has vowed to get the message out to her island community that assistance through the American Cancer Society is available for all.