Funeral costs for Maddie Villanueva
I am a mother to college students, an immigrant rights activist, and I am currently battling cancer. I seek your support to help me beat this cancer so that I can one day return to the wonderful work I was doing and the life I was living prior to this illness.
Over the last few years, I have advocated for immigrant justice by educating community members, and seeking equal opportunities and services for all Californians. I have spoken at many events and shared my personal experiences as an undocumented person in hopes of inspiring others and changing the conditions that undocumented Californians live under in this state.
It is in the midst of conducting this advocacy work that I was taken to the emergency room after experiencing severe pains in my back and stomach. With no access to healthcare as an undocumented and uninsured immigrant, I never paid attention to the physical pain I experienced because I lacked access to affordable health insurance. Like many undocumented Californians, I only went to an emergency room until the pain became unbearable. That day, the doctor told me that my pain has been caused by two tumors lodged on top of my left kidney and and the other one hanging at the bottom of my left lungs about the size of a baseball. The result of the biopsy revealed that the two tumors were “metastatic cancer” from nine years ago. I underwent chemotherapy last February, but the therapy failed so I was given six months to live by my oncologist. Since my body grew weaker due to chemotherapy, the doctors decided to put me in hospice care, putting my advocacy for immigrant rights on hold.
My cancer might have put my advocacy on hold, but I did not let it stop me. Through my experiences seeking treatment, I realized that undocumented immigrants are often excluded from accessing basic and even life saving health care. So, I began to get involved in the Health4All campaign, advocating for health care access for all California, regardless of immigration status. I began to share my story with the media again and work with the California Endowment to highlight the experiences of undocumented and uninsured immigrants. Last May 2015, I was the keynote speaker in the UCLA Immigrant Youth Empowerment Conference where I spoke to hundreds of undocumented immigrants to inspire them. I enjoy helping others and I don’t want my illness to stop me from making a positive change in the community.
As I now undergo clinical trials to treat my Stage IV cancer, I ask for your support since my family no longer has a sustainable source of income. Due to my illness, my husband had to stop working so that he can take care of me as I undergo the new treatment. There have been days when I would open the refrigerator, only to find that there’s nothing I can eat to help me stay strong through my treatments. There have been many sleepless nights when my husband and I would worry about how we will pay the rent and our bills. My family and I are very hopeful that this clinical trial will allow me to survive cancer, but this treatment takes an unpredictable amount of years to finish, that financial hardship will only make it difficult for me to focus on getting better.
I want to see the day when my daughters graduate from college. I want to see my mother again in the Philippines. I want to continue to stand with and advocate for the immigrant community. As the holidays approach, we give thanks for many of the blessings we have in life. I am grateful for my community, friends, and family who have supported me in this journey. I hope that I can also count on you to support and stand with me in this fight, not just against my cancer but also for my family, for immigrant justice, and for Health4All.
All future donations will go towards funeral costs and immediate expenses.
The side effects of this new chemotherapy is more manageable than the first one that failed. My next infusion on January 29th, which is my seventh treatment in a row is something I always look forward to.
Our spiritual collective action, “crusade of prayer” as we call it, is an incredible tool of getting away from complications of this disease. So far, my organs surrounding the two tumors are still functioning. My appetite is declining but I can still take any food that I find appetizing. I got thinner but my weight is not going down badly. The treatment process may be slow but I am getting to that direction.
There is no way for me to give up with this battle because I have all of you, hanging on with you along with God’s hand.
UPDATE FROM HER DAUGHTERS:
Our mom has undergone 5 cycles of treatment so far, and it has gone considerably well. Her tumors have not grown according to the last CT scan, which is some of the greatest news that we have gotten in a while. However, she has been experiencing pain and has had to go to the emergency room a few times for the past couple of weeks. She was admitted to the hospital on Christmas day, for having a recurring fever, which is a sign of some kind of infection. The doctors are treating it now, and they are still hopeful, as we are, for her treatment. This incident shows though that there is still a long way to go for recovery. We hope to continue having your support. We don’t know where we would be without our community.