Updated: Aug 19, 2019
During my presentation to the Planning Commission in June, I shared a bit of the personal story that has motivated me to build a nature and wellness resort for people to disconnect from their fast-paced lifestyle so they can reconnect to themselves on a deeper level. I wanted to share that with you now, in hopes of indirectly helping my friend, Santiago Estevez.
Santiago is 8 years old. His father, Rich, is one of my best friends. A fellow Virginian, Rich grew up in Danville and went to George Mason University. Rich married (the amazing) Claudia, and Santiago is their only son. Tragically, he came down with brain cancer at age 4. Six months later, harsh cancer treatments left him paralyzed. Now he is on assisted breathing and can only move the left side of his mouth and his eyes. However, he is still alive and fighting every day.
I have traveled to many different parts of the country to visit him, and we have developed a special and spiritual relationship. In fact, I can say that without Santiago, this project would not exist. The vision and motivation were “given” to me after an experience Santiago and Rich had in nature together. My belief is that he will not only survive, but that one day he will return to Virginia and live as a teacher at our resort. He will offer insights based on his life that will profoundly impact our guests.
The picture is from April, but I visited Santiago a few weeks ago in Orlando and he is truly excited that our project is moving forward. He can indicate affirmation or “yes” by rolling his left eye upwards, and he expresses visible excitement at the thought of being a teacher in our natural environment. I believe the notion of one day being able to share with others what it is like to fight his battle while not being able to talk or move has proven liberating for him.
Unfortunately, Santiago’s most recent MRI scan showed the cancer has started aggressively growing again for the first time in a year. As such, he recently underwent an intensive chemotherapy treatment, and is literally fighting for his life. The doctors have given him a few months to live. His parents have pursued a ground-breaking approach which takes a specimen from his tumor to manufacture a vaccine that will train his immune system to recognize and immediately kill cancer cells. This is an experimental treatment, and he will be among the first in the world with his condition to use it. We hope his personalized vaccine is available by September 16th.
Until then, we are praying at length every day until September 16th to specifically cut the size of his largest brain tumor in half (to 1.2cm by .6cm), stop any further growth in his other tumors, and clear the cancer out of his spine. Please join us in praying for Santiago. My hope is that our resort helps make a difference in people’s lives. But first I ask for your help in making a difference in Santiago’s life. Thank you.