Real People, Real Stories

Brain cancer survivor

Santiago De la Garza

In the summer of 1997, nine-year-old Santiago De La Garza was just finishing his first year of school in the United States when he began experiencing some symptoms that prompted his parents to take him to the doctor. That same day, his family received the news that there was a tumor deep in his brain.

After the results from surgery were in, Santi began chemotherapy and radiation. His mother drove him to and from every session and sat beside him the entire time. When he would need to stay at the hospital, his father would make the one hour drive to visit him before and after work each day. “He was my hero,” says Santi. “I wanted to get better to make him proud and show him that I could do it and be as strong as he was in my eyes.”

Months of surgeries and treatments passed, and the tumor became stable. Santi and his family had made it through the storm. While he couldn’t fully grasp what had happened at the time, in the years that followed, Santi began to realize how truly lucky he had been – and how blessed he was to have such a strong support network.

In 2004, Santi and his parents, Sonia and Rafael, became CanCare volunteers. “It made sense to go through the training together because we fought my cancer as a family,” says Santi. “It shouldn’t be considered an individual disease…when one person gets cancer, a lot of people get cancer.”

“I don’t feel like I did this or I deserve praise,” says Santi, who feels like the secret to his strength was the tireless support he received. “I feel indebted to my family, friends and doctors. I can’t imagine what it would be like to face something like that alone. Being a CanCare volunteer is an opportunity for me to give back in a genuine way, and I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.”

CanCare has been serving people with cancer since 1990.  All services are confidential and free of charge.  To talk to someone surviving your diagnosis, click here.