IN 2016 MMAC
“You’re going home” were the three best words that Angel Ray T. Guerrero heard following an almost two-year treatment in Hawaii for medullablastoma, a type of brain tumor that’s commonly found in males 8 to 18 years old. He was 12 when he was diagnosed with cancer.
“That was one of the best feelings in the world to me; to pack up my things and come home,” said Guerrero after calling Kapiolani Women’s and Children’s Clinic his home for 15 months. “It was no vacation. I wish I was on the beach getting my tan, instead I’m undergoing chemo.”
The University of Hawaii Cancer Center in Honolulu said the type of cancer that hit Guerrero more likely affects people within the Pacific region.
Guerrero was the guest speaker of Friday night’s 2016 Marianas March Against Cancer, where hundreds showed their support to cancer survivors like him and to friends and family members that lost the battle to the dreaded disease.
The now 21-year-old said he was just a regular kid growing up who played basketball, enjoyed going to the beach, and being with his family and friends. He also had his life planned, either venturing off more into basketball or join the U.S. Air Force
But in August 2007, his and his family’s life took a 180-degree turn. Headaches, vomiting, and lack of appetite were the symptoms that he first felt so he underwent a check up at Dr. Norma Ada’s Clinic, but they still had no idea what was wrong with him that time.
After his check up, he went to Guam for an MRI. After the MRI, he was on another plane, but this time going to Honolulu to be admitted at Kapiolani. “And that was it, I didn’t know that the next year and half was going to be my own personal hell.”
Guerrero added that, when he was still a cancer patient, he underwent six surgeries including a major operation on his brain to partially remove a tumor almost the size of a tennis ball since it was spreading rapidly toward his brain.
“It was a 50-50 procedure. I could come out normal, and when I say normal mean I’d come out the way I went in or I could come out with severe brain damage. I also had to undergo radiation for 32 days and chemotherapy for a whole year. They gave me weekends off to rest,” he said.
“Come to think of it, I think they forgot to tighten some screws while they were in there,” Guerrero added with a laugh.
He was the first to donate a sample of his tumor to UHCC for research. “I pray that with that, they were able to learn more about it. I haven’t heard anything back yet, but I hope one day my struggle would help make a difference in someone else’s life.”
He then thanked his parents, Rep. Joseph Lee Pan and Victoria Guerrero, his brother and three sisters, and relatives and friends who helped and supported him in his battle with cancer. “There is no thank you and words big enough to ever show how thankful I am that you never gave up on me.”
In the two-day 2016 MMAC at the Hopwood Junior High School field, Team Bodig won three awards after having the most money raised (family category), most luminaries sold, and most team spirit prior to MMAC. Team Lady Diann Torres Foundation/Northern Marianas College was the nonprofit and school that raised the most money as well as being named the Rookie of the Year.
The Mt. Carmel School Jedi Knights (school), Pacific Islands Club (corporate), CNMI (government/nonprofit), and BSI/Chacha Lancheros (corporate and school) were the other winners in the most money raised category.
Team Talaabwogh StaR earned the Best Tent and Most Team Spirit awards, while Tan Holdings/Kagman High School topped the Best Baton category. Team Northern Mariana Islands Football Association had the most laps, while Team Mariana Resorts & Spa/Hopwood Junior High School were the Rising Stars.
Tribe Marianas, Faiye, Joeten Dolphins, 3J For Life, IT&E/Saipan Southern High School. Crisis Counseling Program, Grace Christian Academy, and MyPros were the other competing teams.
The Marianas March Against Cancer is the Commonwealth Cancer Association’s annual signature fundraising event.