For a 19-year-old New Lenox resident, suffering a severe neck injury and sore throat that led to the discovery of leukemia, trying to get back to a normal teenager's life is key.
Joe Gasca severly injured his neck in 2009 in a four-wheeler accident and is still in a neck brace today. While in the hospital he said he had a sore throat, so doctors ran tests and determined that Gasca was suffering from leukemia, which has now gone into remission.
“I try not to think about it," Gasca said at his home earlier this week. "For the most part I forget that I even have cancer except for the times when I wake up in the morning and get sick from the chemotherapy but it’s not too often."
Gasca just underwent neck surgery March 14, and in addition to his cancer, recovery can’t come fast enough for this active teenager.
“It’s been pretty good," he said. "The neck brace comes off in three months but it’s hard because I can’t drive, I have lifting restrictions and I can’t play sports. I can’t wait to get back to playing football, frisbee golf and going for runs.”
What's the best way to take the mind off the body? Throwing a "Big Bash," perhaps, will help. Gasca is holding a fundraiser this weekend to help pay for medical bills as he recovers, and it will feature live entertainment, silent auctions and a reptile show.
Right now, Gasca is in his maintenance phase of chemotherapy and will undergo three more years of it. Right now he goes every month, next year it will be every other month and the third year, every third month. His previous schedule was a bit more daunting, with appointments downtown four times a week.
Gasca has dreams of perhaps becoming a pilot or a chef, and he gained some notoriety in January by winning the New Lenox Public Library's chili cook-off. Posters advertising his fundraisers have been strewn throughout New Lenox businesses, too, including El Burrito Loco.
“I was in there the other day and people looked at me, then the poster then back at me!" Gasca said.
All donations and proceeds will go directly to medical bills which are heavily stacking up. Even with insurance, Joe’s mother Laurie finds herself buried. Other costs associated with this battle go farther than insurance.
“It’s not only the chemotherapy, the antibiotic prescriptions alone can run upwards of $1,600," Laurie said. "That is only partly covered by insurance and he needs that. Trips downtown also require me to take time off work."
Aside from it all, Laurie said her son always has a smile on his face and everyone is amazed at how he’s come through.
"Despite the events that have happened, his spirits are high," she said in a previous article.
IF YOU GO
What: The Big Bash fundraiser for Joe Gasca, featuring live entertainment, face painting, a reptile show and silent auctions.
When: 2-7 p.m. Sunday, April 3.
Where: 115 Bourbon Street, located at 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park
Price: Ages 5 and under, free; Ages 6-12, $15; Ages 13+ $25. Food, drinks and raffle tickets included in ticket price.
More information: Read more about Gasca on his website.