My name is Carlos Vieyra and I work at UCLA in the Cardiomyopathy Clinic. It was the end of summer, August of 2011 and my family and I had just returned from vacationing in Hawaii. I kept putting off getting a colonoscopy because I wanted to leave on vacation without any worries and telling myself that the bleeding was caused by hemorrhoids was in some odd form giving me slight comfort. In September 2011, I endured a colonoscopy and that’s when the monster (tumor) was found. The first thought that ran through my head was CANCER. I thought, not me, I’m too young and there is no history of cancer in my family.
On October 5, 2011, I was told that the monster they found in my rectal area was cancerous. My immediate reaction was “I’m going to die”. I felt all my hopes and dreams fly out the window. I felt pain in my heart because I immediately started to think about my son who was four at the time. I asked God, “why me?” I want to see my son graduate from college and become the pilot he wants to become. I felt angry and hurt. I immediately called my wife and we grieved together. It was at that point when I realized, this is NOT going to defeat me. In November 2011, I endured surgery to remove the monster and I was hospitalized for six days after that. After the surgery, I was told that out of the 18 lymph nodes removed, two came back cancerous which put me at STAGE IIIA RECTAL CANCER. I was only 32 years old, how could this be happening to me?
On December 5, 2011, which also happened to be my 33rd birthday, I began my first treatment of chemotherapy, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to me right?! I endured months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation therapy. This was the hardest part of my journey. I felt weak like my body was being tortured from the inside out with nothing really to alleviate the pain. When I touched something cold, it felt like a million pins sticking my hand. The sensitivity was beyond anything I had ever experienced and for a moment, it made me lose hope. Luckily, I was blessed with an amazing wife who stood by my side and endured every moment of pain, uncertainty, and hope with me. It was the hardest battle I had to endure, but I wasn’t going down without a fight. My family and my wife’s family were amazing as well.
In 2012, when I was told by my oncologist that I was officially in remission, I felt like I had reached light at the end of the tunnel and I earned my freedom after being tortured from taking so much medication. I was speechless and once again, hope filled my heart and I felt like I was born again and given another chance at life. I know I’m only a couple of months out, but every moment is a blessing for me. I’m watching what I eat by cutting out all sugars whenever possible, eating less red meat and exercising more. Cancer may have taken half of my colon, but it didn’t take my soul. I have gotten involved and pledged to raise as much money as I could to find a cure. My family and I participated in the Get Your Rear In Gear San Diego 5k walk and we raised the most funds! I truly believe that this setback was a setup for a great comeback!!
MY WORDS OF WISDOM: Fight like hell. DO NOT and I mean not even for a second give into this horrible disease. Learn to accept the fact and find the inner strength within to continue the battle. Keep an open heart and mind and accept the support of your loved ones. Positivity is the key to maintaining hope in your heart. It’s okay to be afraid, but DO NOT let your fear overcome you! Get involved and share your story because your story may give hope to someone who is battling this disease. In honor of all those who continue to battle or have lost their battle, my prayers and heart are with you and your family. YOU CAN DO THIS!!