By Jacob Gonzalez
If there is one thing I’ve learned in the past few years, it’s that cancer is no respecter of persons, and while it may be a great affliction, God is greater.
My family’s battle began with my mom (Deb Gonzalez). She has always been a healthy woman. She diets and exercises and works her 40 hours every week just like everyone else. It seemed like it was spontaneous, but she received a call from the hospital, and they told her she had breast cancer. We were torn as a family, but little did we know that God was preparing us for something so much greater.
My mom underwent all the required treatment, and finally was cured. Literally the very next day, my dad (Marty Gonzalez) passed out with pain in his lower back from what he thought was a kidney stone. After a trip to the hospital and several tests, we learned that my father had been afflicted with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
You never feel the sting of Satan’s arrows like you do when you hear of a loved one falling ill, but we did everything together as a family. We cried together, we struggled together, we prayed hard together, and we found lessons in every inch of my father’s walk to healthiness. My dad’s cancer affected not only him, but those around him as well. My twin brother and I are only 22 years old, and we had to adjust and learn how to take care of our two younger siblings, support our home, and be responsible for all of our own debts. My mother, the strongest woman I have ever known, worked tirelessly to support a family of six on a single income. My brother and I work full time and go to school full time, so we helped whenever it was necessary to do so. We learned how to be men, how to be patient, how to love, and how to cherish our Lord through the worst of times.
My father, however, shined brighter than I had ever seen. There were moments that he felt so ill he could not even speak or open his eyes. He couldn’t lift a finger without a medical professional to assist and monitor him, but regardless of what condition he was in, he never once failed to smile and tell his family how much he loves and cherishes us. God blessed him with a 9/10 matching bone marrow donor, and the path to a cancer free life begun.
Right before his bone marrow transplant, I looked at my dad and told him everything was going to be okay. He smiled, lo
oked at me and responded with “I have lived to see my four incredible children grow in the love of our Lord. I have known the love of a beautiful woman, and I am glad to be seen.” My father disregarded his own well-being to assure me and the rest of my family he loved us unconditionally. I am so proud to say that my father is cancer free, and because of his inspiration, I strive to help whoever is next. I was recently introduced to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) by a coworker of mine, Stacie Lenners. She was declared Woman of the Year by this organization for raising funds on behalf of LLS and blood cancer patients everywhere. She nominated me as a candidate for Man of the Year, and I jumped at the chance to help raise funds, and also to raise awareness in my community.
I know from experience that anything you do can help a family in need, even if it’s just a smile. With my dad, my family, and my friends behind me I will do everything I can to support The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I will be the voice for those without one, and I will be support to patients and families who need it the most.
I praise God for allowing me this opportunity, for the lessons learned through trial, and for the health of my amazing family.