Guillermo Aguilar is an attorney who lives and works in New York City. His son, Patricio, could not remember his healthy and athletic father ever complaining about any physical ailments. It came as a surprise to Patricio when his dad developed stomach issues. Because the Aguilar family has a history of cancer, they urged Guillermo’s doctor to look more deeply into the cause of his abdominal pain. At first, their insurance company refused to authorize the tests the doctor ordered. However, the Aguilars refused to take ‘no’ for an answer. In the end, their persistence paid off. The tests were authorized and while the diagnosis was one that no family wants to hear, Guillermo has been granted extra time with his family that he might not have otherwise gotten to enjoy.
The Aguilars Move to the US
Originally from Mexico, the Aguilar family had previously traveled extensively throughout the United States. Several years ago, Guillermo came to the United States to teach at Yale University for a sabbatical year. At the end of that year, he was offered a position in New York City, and the family decided to make the US their permanent place of residence.
Patricio and his family grew quite concerned about Guillermo because of the history of cancer within their family. In particular, his great aunt had passed away after a short but difficult fight against pancreatic cancer. When the insurance company failed to authorize several critical tests, the Aguilars fought back and won Guillermo received a CT scan, along with an MRI and a chest X-ray.
In the summer of 2014, a surgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital did an endoscopic ultrasound which revealed a tumor in Guillermo’s pancreas. The doctor believed that Patricio’s father was a good candidate for the Whipple surgery. Unfortunately, once the surgeon opened Guillermo up to perform the Whipple, he discovered that he had a tumor on his liver. The tumor tested positive for pancreatic cancer. Surgery was, unfortunately, not an option.
Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
Guillermo was sent to Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City for chemotherapy. After six months on FOLFORINOX, the family got the news they were praying for. Guillermo responded so well to the chemotherapy that he was now eligible for the Whipple surgery.
Surgery was so successful that Guillermo felt better the very next day. After a couple of weeks of recovery time, he began receiving a different form of chemotherapy called gemcitabine. He remained on this treatment for a little over 18 months. He had tolerated the chemo well up until this point, but then he started developing fevers. His latest round of testing showed that the gemcitabine was no longer working. Now he is back on FOLFORINOX and his family hopes that he responds as well as he did the first time around.
A Father’s Inspiration
“My father has a very strong work ethic and is extremely hard working,” Patricio says. “Having a good work ethic is a value he instilled in me and my brother.” He adds, “My father was a soccer player. He was actually quite good. I didn’t do any sports as a kid, but we bonded over watching sports together on TV.” Father and son also shared a love of music and frequently attended concerts together in New York City.
Patricio is currently a student at Claremont McKenna College where he is studying economics and psychology. Attending college on the west coast while his father is battling pancreatic cancer has been difficult at times. However, they close the distance gap by talking nearly every day.
Patricio Starts Running
Prior to his first year of college, Patricio told himself that he would do something outside of his comfort zone. It turns out that a matter of timing brought him the opportunity to try something new. When Patricio arrived at Claremont McKenna, he found that the gym was not always open at the times when he wanted to work out.
One day he decided to give running a whirl. The next day he ran again, extending the distance. He ran a little farther each day until finally he decided to run the Lexus Lace-Up Half-Marathon in Riverside, CA. Patricio enjoys the work involved in distance running. He explains, “Running taught me a lot. I learned about the mentality of sticking to something and working hard. You can’t ‘fake it til you make it’ in running. You have to put in the work.”
Once Patricio completed his first half, he went on to run the full LA Marathon. He says, “I didn’t have the best training strategy, but I finished.” He adds, “The thing I remember most about the marathon is I definitely bonked around mile 19 or 20. I started walking a lot. You can definitely walk and finish, but I didn’t really want to finish walking. You have to push yourself through, which I did. I was surprised because I really did not expect to hit the wall. But, you learn a lot about yourself and you have to be resilient and remember what you are there to do.”
Patricio Runs for Project Purple
Following the LA Marathon, Patricio’s mom talked him into running the New York City marathon, saying, “You can’t run LA and not run New York!” Patricio decided that since he had just completed a marathon, it was the perfect time to sign up to run another one. When he did not get into the race via the lottery system, he learned that running for a charity could get him a guaranteed entry. Patricio went looking for a pancreatic cancer charity and was pleased to find Project Purple.
Patricio applied for and was accepted to the 2016 New York City Marathon team. At first, Patricio was concerned about the fundraising aspect of running for a charity. Ultimately, he found that people were ready and willing to contribute to his Project Purple fundraiser. “I am happy that I found something I like to do on a consistent basis in running and I am keeping myself in shape. The cause of pancreatic cancer obviously resonates with me,” he says. He is glad that his father’s cancer has been responsive to treatment, but he also knows that much more research into the disease needs to be done.
Please support Patricio’s Project Purple New York City Marathon fundraiser by making a donation to the following link: