Many people say cancer changed their lives. It’s more unusual to find someone who says cancer made his life better.
|Gib Acuna says cancer inspired him to reconnect with his army buddies, and City of Hope gave him strength to enjoy it.|
But that’s what Gib Acuña will tell you. “Cancer is not a curse,” he says. “For me, it was a real blessing.”
Gib’s remarkable story is proof of the unexpected ways your support of City of Hope saves lives and helps create brighter futures for cancer patients and their loved ones.
It’s an impact you can have over and over again by supporting City of Hope’s 2008 Annual Fund Drive.
“What do I do now?”
A lifelong Los Angeleno, Gib Acuña was 20 when he was drafted in 1968 and sent to Vietnam.
“I made some incredible friends,” Gib says. Experiencing the danger, horror and emotional highs and lows together, Gib and his infantry buddies were bound in a way, he says, that people who haven’t seen combat can never fully appreciate.
When Gib and his surviving buddies made it back home, however, the inevitable happened. Over time, their lives moved in different directions and they lost touch.
For 22 years, Gib owned successful hair salons in Santa Monica. While he never married, family always remained important to him.
Then, following a routine checkup,Gib was diagnosed with prostate cancer in April 2005. “I didn’t know who to turn to for help or support,” he remembers. “What do I do now?
“Then I decided there were some Army buddies I’d really like to see again.”
An unexpected family
Gib began the hard work of tracking down his old Army buddies, most of whom he’d lost track of decades before.
He also began researching treatment options. That turned out to be a lot easier.
“I’d heard of a few places, but City of Hope was highly recommended,” Gib says. “As soon as I drove onto the grounds, I could tell City of Hope is different. It was like driving into a garden.”
Quickly choosing City of Hope, Gib began his treatment with Timothy Wilson, M.D., director of our prostate cancer program. Employing the Da Vinci surgical robotic system, Dr. Wilson performed a laparoscopic prostatectomy, removing Gib’s cancerous prostate with minimal side effects.
“I experienced no pain, no discomfort, no loss of function,” Gib says. “It all went really, really well.”
Gib’s quest to find his friends was making progress, too. A private investigator took his case for free. Together, they tracked down several of his buddies on the East Coast.
In early 2006, Gib climbed on his Harley and headed east. He thought reconnecting with old friends would be a powerful experience. It turned out to be even more.
“I met my friends, and their wives and kids. They took me into their families,” he says. “And I hung out with my best buddy, Corkey Litsinger. We were in the same squad and did everything together.
"Cancer was a real blessing”
He’s still my hero today.
“Now,” he says, “I talk to these guys all the time. Their wives call and ask how I’m doing or if I need anything. My friend Billy Humphries’ kids even call me ‘Uncle Gib’.”
To the top of the mountain
Meanwhile, Gib’s fight against cancer continues. He has begun TomoTherapy to eliminate as much of what’s left of the disease as possible.
“Dr. Wilson has been next to me all the way,” Gib says. “I think of him as a friend. He’s a mountain climber like me, and I hope someday we’ll be able to go climbing together.
“I feel great,” Gib continues. “I have reached the top of the mountain, and it’s all because of cancer. I would never have stepped outside my life as it was if I had not been diagnosed with cancer.
“I have new families now. That’s the blessing cancer brought me.”
Your support helped Gib Acuña beat cancer and gave him the strength to reconnect with his Army buddies. That’s just one way your partnership makes life better for men, women and children fighting cancer. Please take part in our Annual Fund Drive by using the form below to send a lifesaving gift today.