“I’m a Healer”
#FuckCancer: The True Story of How Robert the Bold Kicked Cancer’s Ass is the new book by Robert Flores and published by Xicano independent publishing house Broken Swords Publications.
This is the true story of a Xicano warrior/butcher from SantAna, Califas who with his head held high, defiantly raised his sword/shield to the heavens, turbocharged his corazón/espiritú to crush cancer from his body. In the process, Robert’s mantra became #FuckCancer.
Cancer transcends racial/ethnic, gender, class, and sexual boundaries. According to the World Cancer Report of 2014, in 2012 about 14.1 million new cases of cancer occurred globally causing about 8.2 million deaths or 14.6% of all human deaths.
These are grim statistics to say the least. Yet, somehow they don’t capture the full story of the emotional and even financial devastation that befall on families and their loved ones of those going through cancer.
Statistics also don’t capture the on-the-ground stories of how people, let alone Xicanas y Xicanos, have beaten cancer.
A few years ago, Angie Chabram-Dernersesian and Adela de la Torre edited a groundbreaking book, Speaking From the Body, a first-person account by several Chicanas dealing with serious illnesses, such as hypertension, breast cancer, obesity, diabetes, depression, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia, Parkinson’s, lupus, and hyper/hypothyroidism.
It was the first Chicana/o Studies book that addressed muXeres and health. The testimonios were empowering and were free of medical and academic jargon. The testimonios were aimed at encouraging our community to engage in platicas amongst ourselves and with our primary medical care-givers and also to become aware of the resources available and advocate for resources where there are none.
Through the testimonios, Chicanas shared their experiences in coping with illness in order to better understand the cultural particulars of health issues that normally go unnoticed by traditional medical paradigms. Most importantly, the Chicanas challenged the medical profession to provide culturally relevant health care to meet the needs of the community.
As I read Robert’s story, this is where I see #FuckCancer having the most positive impact in our community because Robert demonstrates what it means to be pro-active in kicking cancer’s ass.
Robert lets it be known from the get-go that you can’t kick cancer’s ass alone, yet he also makes it clear that once afflicted with it you can’t do it passively either. Robert got his warrior shield and sword and led the charge to wreck cancer’s plans on his life. His family and friends were his guardian angels. #FuckCancer.
In one particular entry, In When Your Surgeon Tells You You Need a Colostomy (January 10, 2013; 4:33pm), Robert describes how, despite being dazed by the millions of questions running through his head, he researched everything he could about “colostomies and sphincter and rectal cancer” (p.18-20).
“I Saw My Ancestors Last Night and They Were Me”
There are thousands of personal stories of triumph and tragedy, but very rarely is there a story told from the perspective of a Xicano.
I am more than happy to state that Robert has taken on that daunting responsibility, not necessarily to speak for all the Xicanas y Xicanos who are battling cancer, but to open up a safe space for their stories to be told without fear of stigmatization and cultural censorship.
#FuckCancer is more than just Robert’s story. It is ours as well. How many of us have lost loved ones to this deadly disease?
More importantly, and as Robert’s story will highlight, how many of our families and friends have been brought together to fight a common enemy?
#FuckCancer is an uncensored story. In fact, #FuckCancer reads like a classic Arturo Islas novel. For all of you who know about Arturo Islas (QEPD), he is a giant of Chicana/o Literature.
Islas battled his own devastating illness. On January 14, 1988, Islas tested positive for HIV, which causes AIDS. Arturo Islas refused to give into depressive thoughts. Islas forged ahead using his writings as therapy, healing, and survival.
Robert’s will to survive; his courage to shout #FuckCancer; and his strength to not “just dance with the devil” (p.3), but to go toe-to-toe with the devil reminded me of Islas and how he used story-telling to document his struggle and a disease that at the time (and even today) was stigmatized by society.
Similarly, Robert doesn’t use story-telling to entertain us or as a pastime for lonely nights rather he uses it to educate us as well as to get us through the difficult challenges posed by cancer. This is why I am sharing #FuckCancer with as many people as I can. I want people to know that they can’t never give up, that there’s always hope.
Don’t Stop Believing!
#FuckCancer isn’t just some journey through some depressive black hole. No, not all! Robert needed a laugh or two along the way. Laughter and smiles are sometimes the best cure for what ails many, especially when things might not look so bright.
I got a chuckle when Robert notes how much he LOVES POPCORN in No Popcorn?! WTF (January 13, 2013; 5:56pm). His Internet research revealed how he couldn’t eat POPCORN anymore because it might hinder movement in his now diverted digestive system. POPCORN was the reason why he loved going to the movies and he even had his own personal bucket (p.20-22).
I think he realized that at this stage in his diagnosis he had already committed to the whole colostomy thing that he needed a laugh to relieve the fear he was experiencing. I found this to be a great lesson for all of us. Despite the Goliath in our lives, we need to sometimes take a moment to regroup.
I had the special privilege of meeting @foxflores on Twitter a couple years ago. Never did I realize that our different paths would someday cross. I met “The Butcher” from SantAna in person soon thereafter.
And as I put this post together, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” comes on the radio. It reminds me of what Robert’s story is all about. Its about perseverance, its about never losing faith, its about always believing that no matter how dark that valley might be, the light is always up ahead.
Don’t get caught looking behind you too much or else you’re bound to miss what’s up front. This is the biggest lesson I got as I read Robert’s journey.
Robert gazed upon the future, and unbeknownst to him at the time of his ordeal, the future was bright and full of blessings. The initial blog entries were a literature book in the making. Robert would soon meet independent Xicano author and publisher Santino Rivera, as well as Xicano graphic designer Emilio Medina, and Xicano photographer Art Meza, all whom would contribute to the making of #FuckCancer.
“Don’t Count the Days, Make the Days Count”
May Robert’s story inspire you to beat the odds in whatever struggle you’re facing.
Recently, I had an informal short platica with Robert. I relate that here in all its raw essence. There was no need to have Robert re-tell the book. But I wanted to briefly introduce you to him and encourage you to get a copy of #FuckCancer, and either volunteer some time or perhaps donate some money to a cancer organization.
In the meantime, do yourself a favor, and go buy yourself three copies of #FuckCancer. 1) one for yourself, 2) one for your family or friend and 3) for a cancer patient.
Robert Anthony Flores is a hero. Robert Flores is an inspiration. Robert Flores is my friend.
Robert Flores: I am the oldest of four kids. I have one sister, Denise and two brothers, Kevin and Jeffrey. I was born and raised in SanTana. My parents divorced when I was 13 years old.
I am Catholic. I went to Catholic school for 12 years. I went to SanTana Mater Dei High School. And I thank my parents for sending me.
After high school, I decided to forgo college and pursue this wonderful life as a meat cutter to help out at home.
My first job was in a meat market here in town, cleaning up after high school let out. I liked it and the money was good.
I have worked in various butcher shops but in 1982 I joined the union. Stable income, great health benefits. So in hindsight it was a good decision to stick with this career after I got the news of my cancer.
I don’t go to church. Not because I don’t want to. I blame work. For the last 40 years, I have been working weekends.
For awhile I did attend church on Saturdays when I worked 7am-4pm shift. But now my shifts are 8am-5pm or 1pm-10 pm. I don’t think not going to church makes me any less religious.
In my book, #FuckCancer I do approach the subject of prayer. There was a point early in my treatment when I feel that I learned how to pray. And from that point I prayed like a person breathes.
Constantly, I directed my prayers to La Virgen de Guadalupe. I truly believed she listened to me. Along the way little things would happen.
Little things that added up to me kicking cancer’s ass. So along with my doctors, my family and friends, I know that my belief in La Virgen, I was able to get through all that was dealt to me. I still need to get down to the Basilica and do my manda.
Finding out that I had cancer was obviously quite a shock. I didn’t cry or anything. In fact I thought my doctor was going to cry. I almost gave him a hug. Of course I had no idea my cancer was so bad, but he knew. Believe me, the tears came later and plenty of them.
The doctor had already made arrangements for me to meet my surgeon. Appointments were all lined up. So when I left his office, first thing I did was call my work to tell them I wouldn’t be in for awhile. Then I called my sister and my brothers. And then I called my Compa, Francisco Gutierrez. I called a few more friends and then drove home. My life changed in an instant.
After hearing from the doctors that I had cancer, the first conversation I had was with the billing department. In my case, it was with my oncologist. They called me to discuss payment. How much you owe and how much your insurance covers.
I’m already overwhelmed. I’m thinking this is what I owe? Oh no, the girl says, you have great insurance. My total out of pocket cost was $2,500 for 2013. That was it. For everything, including radiation and my surgery.
The overall message of #FuckCancer is simple. Thank you to my Doctors, to my familia, to my friends, and to my faith. That’s what I tell people. It reads like a big thank you card.
I detail my treatment. I let you inside my heart. I only hold back if I feel I would be revealing something so private, in respect to those involved.
When I was growing up, if an older relative died, I didn’t ask, what did Tia die from? So if I had X number of relatives that did die of cancer, I wouldn’t know. We, out of respect, don’t ask those questions. So we are not aware, at an early age, if we are even susceptible to the various cancers that kill our heritage.
That is why I picked Latino Health Access as the charity that I will be donating my proceeds from the book to. Dr. America Bracho, Google her, runs a center, in SanTana, for health promotion and disease prevention. She trains people how to eat right, how to exercise, essentially, how not to get diabetes and heart disease and other chronic health problems. She is not looking for a cure. She is looking to educate how not to get these diseases. BOOM. #FuckCancer
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I took it personally. To me, getting cancer was the same as someone coming into your house and trying to kill you. You trying to kill me? Fuck You!!
I found an avatar of a sweatshirt with F#ckcancer. I guess I became the #FuckCancer guy on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. So when Santino approached me with the idea of turning my blog into a book, there was only one title that we knew we would use.
You can purchase #FuckCancer: The True Story of How Robert the Bold Kicked Cancer’s Ass from Broken Sword Publications or any bookstore.