Parade float honors cancer fighter (video)

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Nov. 28, 2012 at 5:28 a.m.

Tuesday wasn't a good day.

The black pouch worn around Sam Garcia's hips connected a small needle with her port, delivering high dosages of chemo as she mingled with family at her hair salon on Lilac Lane.

She doesn't cut hair when she's taking chemo.

Her son, Christian, 24, clips a man's hair as she watches nearby. Christian moved back from Corpus Christi when he got the news that this time was bad.

"Cancer does not dictate my life," she said.

She's stubborn, and admits it. She's become an expert at hiding her pain and nausea, her fear and stress, her acceptance of death.

"I'm terminal," Garcia said, in the same plain tone someone might say "I'm hot" or "I'm sleepy."

When she was first diagnosed with colon cancer in February 2010, she said she cried for days with her partner, Tabithia San Miguel, 35.

"But after that, I was over it," Garcia said. "I wasn't going to turn this into a grim thing."

The 44-year-old stylist underwent 12 rounds of chemo that year before her oncologist said it was in remission.

But in March, the cancer came roaring back, this time spreading to her lungs and blood stream.

According to the American Cancer Society, excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States.

About 150,000 Americans are diagnosed annually with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 die from it.

With terminal cancer, there is no time to waste on anger, denial or self-pity. The time you have is all you have, not a minute more.

"I'm not going to let this cancer get me down," Garcia said. "I've always enjoyed life."

Although the prognosis is terminal, Garcia does not give in to it.

"We're all going to pass, but I'm not giving up," Garcia said. "People shouldn't give up the fight. There's a lot to look forward to."

She looks forward to becoming a grandmother at the end of April.

She has cancer of the body, not of the spirit.

"I'm a little young to be a grandmother, but I welcome it," Garcia said. "I welcome being 60, 70, 80 and 90."

But when Garcia talks about a Christian retreat she wants to attend in January, she speaks with uncertainty - adding, "If I make it..."

San Miguel said, "Sometimes she puts on that she's stronger than what she is."

On her good days, there's laughter and smiles. On bad days, it's emotional, stressful and filled with fear.

San Miguel doubts she would be as strong - "I don't cry around her."

San Miguel said she is lucky to work for Alcoa, a company that extends medical benefits to same-sex couples.

"God does miracles sometimes, and this is one of them," she said. Garcia "was in remission, and I pushed for it at work. I dug for it because I knew it (insurance) was available."

At the beginning of 2012, before Garcia's cancer came back, she was able to get on San Miguel's insurance policy.

However, they're both paying off expensive bills from the old cancer.

They are hosting an all-day benefit Jan. 13 at Club Westerner to raise money to help with bills. The benefit includes a motorcycle fun run, a raffle for a Yamaha motorcycle, a barbecue luncheon and an auction.

Each chemotherapy treatment cost from $13,000 to $15,000, San Miguel said. To date, Garcia has received 26 treatments, but even with insurance they're left covering 20 percent of all expenses.

"I really don't want to do chemo, but I have to," Garcia said. "It's the only way I can stay alive."

Despite her black hands, feet and tongue - all marks of chemo burns - her body withstands it.

Maybe she's tough from a childhood spent around strong men and boy cousins.

"Little Bull" - growing up, that's what Garcia's dad called her.

She enjoys wrestling and play fights, and watching Cowboys and Spurs games.

Maybe her strength comes from somewhere else.

She attended her first ACTS retreat - short for Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service - in January, before the cancer came back.

"That retreat made me strong," Garcia said. "It helped set my foundation."

Even her partner noticed a change once Garcia returned home.

"Her love for everybody has grown, and you can see that with other people," San Miguel said.

She carries the light of God with her, San Miguel said.

"We all have a plan," Garcia said. "God has a plan for all of us."

She still enjoys singing "torch songs" by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston and dancing to '80s music in the car. She works at her salon when she is not receiving chemotherapy.

However, the chemotherapy has changed a lot about her life, dictating her diet and appearance.

She admitted Tuesday was not one of her good days.

"It'll get better," she said. "If it doesn't, 80s music always helps."



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