My father, Urbano, was the first in his family to come to the U.S. in the late ’70s from his hometown in Tequila, Mexico. From as far back as I can remember, he has always put family first. My childhood memories are focused around big family events because everything was a cause for celebration. The most important thing for my father was always bringing people together.
He started showing symptoms in March 2006, when I was 20 years old. My dad was never the type to get sick beyond a cold. When he started having horrible headaches and migraines, my dad went to his primary care doctor, who encouraged him to reduce his stress and take ibuprofen. Once he began having small seizures in addition to his worsening headaches, it became obvious that his symptoms weren’t from stress. That’s when they admitted my dad to the hospital.
After 1.5 months in the hospital where they ran all sorts of exams and tests, his medical team diagnosed him with glioblastoma (GBM) on a Sunday. By Wednesday, he told me his head was hurting. I went to grab a nurse. By the time I came back, he had become unresponsive.
It was like living in a movie or a TV show where they push the family members out of the room, and you see everybody rushing in while you’re left sitting in the hallway trying to figure out what is going on. Everything happened so fast. I was forced to grow up all of a sudden.
They called in the middle of the night to say his organs were shutting down and asked us to decide to take him off of life support. I felt like everything was a blur from that time because of all the information thrown at us, and we had to make these decisions so quickly.
He passed away early the next morning — only four days after he was officially diagnosed with GBM. It took some years for me to process my dad’s passing. I was still in college, and it was a lot to go through as the administrator of his estate.
I learned about the National Brain Tumor Society as an undergrad at George Mason. My professor tasked us with a class project to find a nonprofit we’re interested in, research the organization, and present it to the class. NBTS stuck out to me because of the sense of community — it’s like a community that no one wants to be a part of, but you’re grateful that the community exists.
I learned that the Race For Hope-DC fundraiser takes place the first weekend of May, and my dad’s birthday is May 4. In his memory, we formed the Jalisco Jalapeños team in 2011. Each year, we honor his life with a big family celebration.
Dad was the type to go out of his way and help anyone in need. We fundraise to support others currently in the battle and to walk alongside those who experienced the same heartache our own family went through 16 years ago. It’s also a way of continuing to process and grieve.
My dad was a happy man who loved his family, mariachi, soccer, and tequila. We miss him more than we could ever put into words. I know that it would make him happy to see his children, granddaughter, nieces, and nephews come together every year to continue the fight that he started. Que viva los Jalisco Jalapeños!