To mark World Cancer Day, LIVESTRONG today announced a new initiative to help cancer survivors facing exceptional challenges. Jose Antonio Ventura, a bone cancer survivor and resident of East Austin, and his family have been selected as the first recipients of the new LIVESTRONG Survivor Support Initiative to receive special assistance from the Foundation.
In August 2010, Jose Antonio sought support from the LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Center for a number of practical and financial obstacles related to his illness. As the Foundation learned more about him and his family, their neighbors in the East Austin community, they realized the Venturas were faced with overwhelming challenges that were being precipitously worsened by Jose Antonio’s illness.
For the past 16 years, Jose Antonio has made a living by working manual labor jobs – sweeping parking garages and streets and working in kitchens. His hands tell the story of his hard life. A year after being diagnosed with bone cancer, Jose Antonio suffered a stroke. He is currently receiving chemotherapy at Brackenridge Hospital. He is no longer able to work because of his illness and that loss of income makes life even more difficult for this family.
Maria, Jose Antonio’s wife, is now the only bread winner in the family. She works in food service making less than $20,000 a year to support a family of five, but wants the best for her children and is determined to give it to them.
Gustavo, the couple’s 17 year-old son, is wise beyond his years. In addition to caring for his father, he is also helping to care for his niece, two year-old Zurayma, and nephew, five-year old Miguel, both of whom the family recently adopted. Gustavo could have taken a paying summer job to help support his family but instead volunteered alongside LIVESTRONG staff assisting with outreach to the Hispanic community. Though it seems the odds are stacked against him, he manages to excel in school. His hope is to graduate from high school early and gain a scholarship to attend a special academic program at the University of North Texas in Denton.
As LIVESTRONG staff assisted Jose Antonio, they learned that the Ventura family home is in a state of extreme disrepair. Because of mounting medical debt related to Jose Antonio’s treatment, the family cannot afford badly-needed repairs which include window replacements, plumbing upgrades, basic home security and a kitchen renovation. Through the Survivor Support Initiative, LIVESTRONG plans to help the Venturas achieve a better quality of life by renovating their home with help from corporate partners and community organizations.
The goal of the LIVESTRONG Survivor Support Initiative is to help a cancer survivor who has received support from the LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Center or LIVESTRONG’s navigation services in the past year and is dealing with overwhelming challenges. Each year on World Cancer Day – February 4 – the survivor selected for special assistance will be introduced and the results of that assistance will be presented on LIVESTRONG Day – October 2. LIVESTRONG will provide updates on the progress of this effort throughout the year. Anyone interested in donating to this effort can do so at www.LIVESTRONG.org/survivorsupportinitiative.
Thank you to our dear friends at Alpheus Media for producing the following video about the Ventura family.