“ Stay strong, and surround yourself with caring people. Those people are your angels throughout challenging times.
Gustavo Padilla is another mAss Kickin’ runner! Gustavo is very involved in the San Diego running community through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. He was a member of the 2015 American Cancer Society, Chula Vista Relay for Life leadership team. He is currently a Labor Relations Representative for the California School Employees Association and the vice president of “We Support U”, a San Diego based cancer nonprofit that supports local cancer patients by promoting health education, early detection, cancer awareness, and comprehensive care management. He is also the Race Director for the We Support U, Annual Cancer Awareness 5K Run/Walk. We are very honored to feature him this week as our “Featured mAss Kicker”!
mK: Thanks for doing this Gustavo! How did you find out about your diagnosis?
GP: I first noticed a bump on my neck in 2012 while I was away on a business trip. When I returned back home I immediately followed up with my doctors and scheduled all the necessary tests. It was negative. Then again in early 2013 I noticed another bump on my neck and on the same side. That’s where they found the cancer. I was diagnosed with Stage I Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
mK: What were your symptoms?
GP: I didn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary, except for the bumps on my neck. I do remember being fatigued and very tired all the time, but I thought it was due to working excessive amount of hours.
mK: Yeah, people rarely expect the worst case scenario. How are you doing now? What are you up to?
GP: I am doing great. Shortly after I finished all of my treatments, and with the help of my sister, I started walking and eventually running. I signed up for my very first 5K run, followed by a 10K, and then a half marathon. On June 5, 2016 I ran my first full marathon and I dedicated all 26.2 miles to all the people we have lost to cancer. I am also the vice president of a local non-profit that supports local patients and their families. Within this non-profit I also serve as the race director for our annual Cancer Awareness 5K Run/Walk in Chula Vista to raise funds to help fight cancer.
mK: Why did you start running after your diagnosis?
GP: I started running because my sister encouraged me to do it in order to gain strength. I ended up liking it so much that we started signing up for races, from 5Ks to half marathons. Every single time I cross the finish line I take it as a reminder that I’m alive and that I’m doing great. I feel alive.
mK: That is AWESOME! People need to know that there is still life after a tumor/cancer diagnosis! What motivates you?
GP: People motivate me. Each person that I encounter in life offers a distinctive and unique experience, and I use that a motivator to do good things, such as volunteering to help. I truly do believe that one person can always make a difference, so I want to do everything possible to support cancer patients.
mK: Cool! Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?
GP: I have many heroes in my life. My family is full of people who I consider my heroes for many different reasons. In my professional life it has been Erik, my ex-boss and the person who hired me to do the job I am doing now. In my personal life, my brother, sister, sister-in-law for their kindness and perseverance to overcome so many different obstacles in life. My dad for working so hard in life and showing me to be compassionate with people, and my mom, who is now in heaven, for dedicating her life to our family and showing me how to love everyone for who they are.
mK: Family is a large part of survivorship. Family members step up. Friends that step up become family. Let’s get to know you better… what makes you laugh, cry, angry?
GP: So many people and things make me laugh. Having my family together and talking about anything always ends up in sincere laughter. I enjoy laughing all the time now. I cry when I see young kids suffer an illness and they don’t have a support system to help them out. I get angry when I see injustices in this world.
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
GP: I think the most interesting thing I’ve ever done is bungee jumping. I am afraid of heights, so that was an interesting decision to actually want to do it.
mK: Cool! What would you say is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
GP: The toughest challenge is remaining positive throughout the entire treatment. It can be a tough and painful road, physically and mentally, and staying focus is sometimes hard.
mK: You are absolutely right! This is where our family and friends come in! So… what is your guilty pleasure?
GP: Ahhhhhhh, that’s easy. Running, running, and running. I sometimes spend too much time and money doing these races, but I love it and it makes me feel good.
mK: So you like to run… What do you think you’ll be doing 10 years from now? 20 years?
GP: I would love to be working for a non-profit that helps people and make the organization grow to support as many people as necessary.
mK: Cool! What are is next on your agenda?
GP: I want to continue volunteering to support cancer patients. I also want to do another marathon.
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
GP: Stay strong, and surround yourself with caring people. Those people are your angels throughout challenging times.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
GP: Some people do now, but I would say the majority don’t… I love Tigger, the character from Winnie the Pooh. Yes, I realized I’m a grown man, but I always feel like a little kid at heart.
mK: Any parting words for all the mass Kickers?
GP: Be strong, be kind, and always have a heart.
Gustavo Padilla: Adult President of the Tigger Fan club, avid runner, bungee jumper, family centric survivor, and driven cancer advocate. Thanks for doing the interview Gustavo! We look forward to seeing what you do next! Check out his recent article in Discover SD!