Lily's Light

Ruben and Lily Plaza

There is so much I remember about my mom since she died on January 3, 2008: how tears would form in her eyes when she laughed too hard, how she wanted to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s (hats, streamers and all) despite being in the hospital, how she told me a few days before she passed that I was her perfect daughter.

For 2 ½ years my mom battled Bronchioalveolar Lung Cancer (BAC). When I tell people how she died, their next question is almost always, ‘did she smoke?’ It’s so disheartening that people only associate lung cancer with smokers. While my mother never smoked, no one deserves to suffer with lung cancer. This is why she wanted to see this out – to make others aware that her disease is not uncommon and more needs to be done.

My mother had been misdiagnosed and I was angry that we had wasted so much time. It took a trip to Ecuador, where she was born, to receive the second opinion that no one wanted to give her here because running all the exams again would incur more costs that her insurance would not cover. Six months after my mom’s diagnosis I emailed Susan Mantel, Executive Director of Uniting Against Lung Cancer. We decided we wanted to raise awareness of BAC and all forms of lung cancer. In South Florida there are few, if any, events that do this. After reaching out to Uniting Against Lung Cancer, I was told that our story was unfortunately a common one and we decided to work together to raise awareness of this terrible disease. I am forever indebted to Uniting Against Lung Cancer for creating a foundation that spoke directly to our hearts.

My mom was 61 when she passed. She met her two grandchildren – including my niece whose smile and laughter are an echo of her own. While undergoing treatment with Tarceva, she fulfilled her dream of going to India. While there, she had a unique experience that affected her faith and love toward mankind. During her visit to St. Thomas Cathedral in Chennai, an Indian lady, named Paulie, who suffers from debilitating rheumatoid arthritis, approached her as she saw my mom leaving the crypt, crying. She looked at my mom and told her in English, “I will pray for you and I bless you”. They hugged and cried together.

Paulie was a stranger with a heart of gold; despite her own pain, she was able to feel someone else’s and offer consolation. That is our goal for the South Florida community in bringing Kites for a Cure®to our area: to give lung cancer patients and their families solace. We want them to know that they are not alone and that more is being done to help them and their future!

My mom would be very happy with our efforts to fulfill her wish and she’d be smiling that huge smile that I now see on my niece’s face. And I take more comfort knowing that she’s always with us, telling us all “LOS QUIERO…I love you”.

--Anna Plaza

View research grants sponsored by Lily's Light here.