Many know her not by name but simply as “Nana.” She has raised her own children and is now raising a grandson, Eli Garcia, who is a junior in high school.
“My house is a revolving door for kids,” she said. “I never know who is going to be there when I wake up.”
As an educator for more than 30 years, she has taught many people in George West, including Eli and many of his friends.
The fact that Garcia has cancer isn’t changing her. She still has a love for her job as a fifth-grade teacher and children.
Garcia normally works the gates at all sporting events and she was doing just that when the first sign of cancer presented itself.
It was after a December basketball game that she took a fall in her home that caused a knot that wouldn’t go away. By Jan. 15, she was at the doctor for the persistent knot.
It was discovered she had stage three breast cancer in a breast and lymph nodes.
Her doctor, Dr. Sehgal, is taking an aggressive approach to treatment.
She said she is under going 12 weeks of chemo that will be followed by 12 weeks of another medication, surgery after that and finally radiation.
When the cancer was first discovered, it was hard cylinder with what Garcia described as roots coming off of it. It was approximately 12 centimeters in size.
She said she will have her first ultrasound in two weeks to see if it has shrunk any.
She is currently going to the doctor once a week and sometimes more to give blood, receive chemo and other reasons related to her cancer.
“Those doctors at Coastal Bend Cancer Center are just wonderful,” she said.
In addition to the doctors, she has an army of friends that are just as wonderful. There is a rotation of people that drive her to the chemo appointments and wait the two and a half to three hours until she is finished and then drive her home.
She couldn’t do it without Rena McWilliams, Dee Rosebrock, Jane Pugh, Eli, Janette Garcia and Stephanie Garcia driving her.
“They are giving their time totally,” she said.
She said the hardest part of this process is “worrying about her three children and five grandchildren.”
Even though the children are grown, she doesn’t want them to be without a parent.
Her worry doesn’t stop with her own family; there are also the students she teaches.
“I’m worried about telling the students because what if they had a family member who had died of cancer but I talked to the counselor and she said to lay it all out there,” Garcia said. “I told them I had cancer, I would be out a lot and I needed them to be on their best behavior for the substitute.”
Since she is on the first part of the treatment program, there is a chance the worst is yet to come.
She takes anti-nausea medication before her treatment but that doesn’t always help.
Her treatment has messed up her taste buds and “food tastes like cardboard.”
One of her favorites, chocolate, is no longer appetizing to her at all, but she now has cravings for Sunny D. She is limited to the amount of sugar and caffeine she can take in so just because she craves it doesn’t mean she can have it all the time.
She will have surgery in July and radiation will be after that.
She has hopes that she will recover from surgery quickly and the radiation will not affect her too badly.
She has to go back to teaching in the fall because as a single parent she says she has to work and the doctor bills are only adding up.
Right now she said chemo is about $850 a treatment but that the specialists are allowing her to pay as she can. She estimates she is about $8,000 in debt and only expects it to get worse.
There is some relief though; people are helping out where they can. Josey Chapline is holding a rummage sale this weekend with all the proceeds going to Garcia and a barbecue plate dinner is scheduled at the fairgrounds on April 14 starting at 11:30 until all the food is gone.
Additionally an account has been set up in her name at First National Bank.
“The people in Live Oak County have just been wonderful,” Garcia said. “I want to thank everyone for everything they have done. They don’t know how much I appreciate it.”