Pascual Heredia has always had deep faith and spirit. It is no wonder his birthday is on Christmas Day. He is excited for the visit of his eldest daughter from the Dominican Republic, who is joining him, his wife Mayra and his youngest daughter Sandy in Louisville, Kentucky to celebrate his 63rd birthday. Pascual’s deep and abiding faith as a Seventh Day Adventist has never let him down.
“Faith is a big part of our lives,” said his daughter, Sandy.
“If you talk to him for any longer than a minute, he will always mention how important God is in his life. ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen to me,’ he says, ‘but God is taking care of us.’”
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Pascual gave up a lot to make a new life for his family in the United States. While he is trained as a chemical engineer, when he moved to America speaking only Spanish, he had to start from scratch. He’s worked in a warehouse to support his family, ever since. “I would do whatever I can for my dad and mom,” Sandy said. “They’ve given up so much, just so we kids would have a better future.”
It was three months ago on the warehouse floor in Miami that Pascual finally came face to face with cancer. Like many people, Pascual tended to avoid doctor visits. Over the past few years, though, his family noticed he was losing a lot of weight; he always explained it away, saying he sweated a lot in his 14-hour-a-day job.
One day, though, he collapsed on the warehouse floor.
An ambulance took him to the hospital, and tests revealed stage IV adenocarcinoma, which had spread to his joints and eyes. In fact, Pascual is now completely blind, due to cancer.
He is now undergoing radiation treatments to shrink the tumors in his eyes and hopefully bring back his sight. He’s also undergoing chemotherapy treatments to slow down the cancer growth in his lungs. According to Sandy, the doctors don’t expect the treatments to cure him, but they are very hopeful it will give the family more time to be together, at least. The treatments make him very tired and weak – and he keeps losing weight. Even getting out of bed and walking short distances is extremely fatiguing and difficult for him now.
A smoker since age 17, Pascual tried to quit many times, but never could. Recently, his family pleaded with him to quit and he finally did. Unfortunately, it was just one month prior to his diagnosis. “Dad would want others to know that smoking is not worth it,” Sandy said. “He kicks himself for being unable to quit earlier.”
Now Sandy and her mom are Pascual’s main caregivers, driving him to doctor’s appointments and doing what’s needed around to keep him comfortable between treatments.
Pascual and his family have also made a major shift, since the cancer – they are now eating a purely vegan diet.
They hope it will keep Pascual strong for his ongoing battle with cancer. “Maybe it’s not going to cure him,” Sandy said, “but I’m sure it is already helping him cope with the side effects of his chemo and radiation treatments.”
When asked about advice for others dealing with lung cancer, Sandy says to focus on staying optimistic.
“Your mood and perspective on life is half of your treatment,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter how many chemicals they pump into your body to kill the cancer, if your mind won’t let you get better. You have to want to get out of bed and have a new day, and see the sunshine. The way you feel is a lot to do with treatment.
Pascual, Mayra, and Sandy have also been amazed by how people in their new town have all come out to support them during this toughest of tough times. “The support of our family and church – in addition to all the doctors and nurses at the clinic – just makes me cry. We didn’t really know many people here in Louisville, but have been blessed meeting so many selfless people who have stepped up to support my dad and our entire family, as he fights to see again and stay with us awhile longer.”