They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Or does it? Getting cancer is like the worst lightning that would put a person’s life in disarray. The survivors hope to never get struck again, but it happens. Juan Vasquez is a survivor who was struck twice, but he will not allow the proverbial lightning otherwise known as cancer take his life without a fight.
Juan Vasquez is a young man that works as a barber at the New Style Barbershop in Moline, IL. He thought he had put the battle with cancer behind him 3 years ago, when he was diagnosed for the first time and had to undergo a surgery to save his life. He was terrified the first time he got the disease. He was younger and full of hopes and dreams to start a family. The doctor reassured him that he would be fine with treatments and he was blessed to have the support of his girlfriend that helped him to go through this ordeal three years ago and again now.
Unfortunately, cancer was not done wreaking havoc on his health and rearranging his life. At 29 he found out the disease struck yet again. Juan Vasquez explained that he did not really feel sick before he was diagnosed for the second time, but his girlfriend insisted that he needed to go see a doctor.
“[My girlfriend] said, you know what let’s go to the doctor and let’s just go see what they say,” he remembers how Hannah, his girlfriend, pushed him to go see a doctor. “And one day we went and as soon as we went we got the news. It was instant. It came back basically. And I did not have any idea because I was not feeling sick. Didn’t feel sick. There were no symptoms for me like I didn’t feel good.”
The second time this disease came back with a vengeance.
“They gave me a couple of tests,” Mr. Vasquez shared. “They gave me a number that was, they told me it started at 1000, a tumor marker, and next week you know I go back two days later, and it was at 2000 something. It was growing on me! And the doctor said we have to start aggressive treatment now.”
After resolving the issue of payment for his treatments thanks to his doctor prioritizing his life above insurance payments, Mr. Vasquez started the debilitating treatments.
“I did three rounds. Consisting of one full week Monday through Friday and I would do 9 am until about 3 pm,” Mr. Vasquez shared how hard it was to go through all those aggressive treatments. “After the first week I would get done and then I go a full week and then I get the weekend off so I can rest and then I will be back on a Tuesday to do one treatment and have those rest of the days off and come back the next Tuesday and do a whole other day and after that another week and start it again all over.”
The treatments were grueling. Mr. Vasquez explained that it started to affect him in many bad ways. Debilitating weakness that drained every ounce of his energy made it hard for him to carry out his daily tasks with ease. He had hard time trying to continue to do be a barber, a job he loves. Even though his physical being was under attack he did not give up and found a way to deal with all of this through music.
“It got hectic after a little bit, but I started to bring my laptop and I would make music,” Mr. Vasquez shared his coping mechanism that helped him pull through and that is becoming something he does not just for coping with the disease. “I make music. I make instrumentals. I make beats. I started a website when I was there. I was coming to work too.”
Even though he went to work between the treatments, he honestly admitted that he could not do much, but he felt that he needed to be there for his regular customers. Desire to get better and support from family and the community helped him to deal with this disease.
“[There were] a lot of people who sent me text messages, who called me to see how I was doing. And a lot of people from the community they helped out like donating money to me and doing fundraisers,” he remembers with huge gratitude.
He explained were many times that he would wake up and he would be told that someone stopped by to drop him some money, or that he received a donation from someone out of town.
“That along is a motivation to keep going,” Juan Vasquez said.
His two-year-old son was also a huge motivation for him to keep on fighting.
“It was definitely tough. It was not easy I tell you that,” Mr. Vasquez described how he felt during the fight for his life against cancer. “I would get dizzy, dry eyes, I had all my hair fall out, the taste of this, I could not handle the taste. Everything tasted like metal to me. Even like something simple like going to the restroom was difficult sometimes. It was hard sometimes, but I pushed through it.”
His fight was not a lonely one. His doctor, family and community came through for him and for that he is very thankful.
“I want to thank the community for being a big part of my survival,” Mr. Vasquez said. “An I want to thank everybody for just being behind me as if they were my family.”
He added that he is greatly thankful for the generosity of the community members who organized successful benefits and fundraisers for him.
“I want to thank everyone who came,” he continued. That was a blessing to have that kind of love and support form the community. I am very grateful, and now I am there for anybody else who goes through something like that. I already offered to people who go through the same thing any help. Whatever I can do. Now that I am back on my feet I feel very good about giving back.”
Juan Vasquez wants to give special thank you to his friend and mentor Miguel Rosas, owner of New Style Barbershop who helped with fundraising and offered continued support through these hard times, also, his cousin Cecilia who was part of organizing his second fundraiser. He also grateful to DJ Sonido Clarion and his kind wife who took time to make canisters and baskets leaving them in different businesses for donations.
Now that Mr. Vasquez feels like he is back to his normal self, he plans on continue giving back to the community that supported him in a time of need through his work in the barbershop and offering anyone who goes through the same thing his time and backing any way he can. He also plans continuing to make music, venturing out into different genres that go beyond hip hop, and collaborating with other lyrics writers to create songs. His music can be found across most social media platforms. Search for Air Force Juan.