Santa Barbara Family Seeks Community Support in Double Battle Against Cancer | Local News

The Canto family has endured unimaginable hardships over the past year.

It all started last August when Cesar Canto, a 35-year-old Santa Barbara resident who works in the IT department at UC Santa Barbara, was diagnosed with olfactory neuroblastoma, an extremely rare cancer that begins in the nerves and affects the nerves. affect the senses. of smell.

Canto underwent three surgeries, one of which was particularly complicated and required the removal of part of his skull. He completed treatment, which included 33 radiations, in December and thought he was on the road to recovery.

But a month later, his wife, Alicia, was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.

At 34 years old and without a history of this type of cancer, Alicia was shocked.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she told Noozhawk. “At first I didn’t understand what was happening, and it was an incredibly stressful and scary time.”

Family friends have launched a community fundraising campaign to help Alicia and Cesar Canto and their three children, Evony, Selena and Josh, as they battle rare cancers. (Canto family photos)

Alicia said she felt a mass in her breast and immediately went to her doctor, who ordered a mammogram and biopsy.

Four days after feeling the lump, Alicia was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma, an uncommon form of breast cancer that can spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body.

The round of surgery was to resume for the Cantos, who have three children, Evony (17), Selena (16) and Josh (12).

“It took me a while to process everything,” Cesar admitted. “What are the odds that my wife and I have back-to-back cancers? It’s surreal.

“Having the kids at home really helped,” he said. “We have to be strong for them and we try to carry on with sports and school as best we can.”

The kids all participate in school sports, and Evony, who will graduate from San Marcos High School in June, plans to play soccer at Alfred University in New York.

“I’m definitely nervous, but also excited for a new environment,” Evony said. “I’ve always wanted to play college football, so I’m glad I got that opportunity.”

But paying for college will be a hardship. Alicia said the San Marcos counselors are helping her obtain potential scholarships, but she worries that being out of work to receive treatments will clearly have devastating financial consequences for her family.

Alicia has to undergo six rounds of chemotherapy, 33 radiation treatments and five years of hormonal therapy. She has taken an indefinite leave of absence from her job as an accounting supervisor and is nervous about how the aggressive treatments will make her feel.

“Everything happened so quickly and was so unexpected,” Alicia said. “It’s definitely made me enjoy time with my kids, and I’ve even missed the mundane things of my daily routine — like showering and getting dressed.”

The sheer magnitude of the challenge is not lost on her children.

“It’s hard for me to see my parents so vulnerable and unable to do what they could do,” said Selena, a sophomore in San Marcos. “It’s a lot of emotions at once. It’s stressful because you can hope for the best and receive the worst news, and it’s heartbreaking.”

“We are a strong and close family and I know this is going to be a long process but we will get through it,” added Evony.

Family friends have created a GoFundMe account to help the Cantos cover the rising medical, college, and living expenses that are a challenge on one paycheck alone.

“The family is grateful for the help they received during Cesar’s treatment, but so far they have asked for nothing but our love and support,” said Lisa Rothstein, the organizer, in a message to the site.

“But after this unimaginable turn of events, they need more, they need financial support from the community.”

By Sunday, the account had raised nearly $26,000 toward its $50,000 goal. Click here to make an online donation.

— Ann Pieramici is a Noozhawk contributing writer. She can be reached at [email protected]†

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