The Tucson community is supporting a former UA student as he battles another round of cancer by holding a fundraiser and auction to help cover his medical bills.
Nick Palomares learned five weeks ago that, despite having a tennis-ball sized cancerous tumor removed in the fall of 2012, the testicular cancer he’d been diagnosed with had spread to his lungs and stomach.
“I just thought, ‘Gosh darn it,’” Palomares said. “‘Again?’”
Palomares decided to undergo chemotherapy, but because of the strain it causes his body, he had to withdraw from the UA and leave his role as a pledge educator at Beta Theta Pi. When he made the announcement at his fraternity’s recent chapter meeting, the usually lighthearted meeting became more serious.
“At first it was shock,” said Justin Folts, a member of Beta Theta Pi and retailing and consumer sciences junior. “There was only a 12 percent chance it would come back.”
Palomares said that his fraternity embraced him and, because of its concern, immediately went into action thinking of ways to help him overcome this “speed-bump.”
“They had the same mindset I did,” Palomeras said.
Folts was in Palomares’ pledge class and is one of the main people helping with the fundraising. He said the purpose of fundraising is to help take the stress of medical bills off of Palomares.
“I believe that he has a lot more important things to worry about,” Folts said. “Money shouldn’t be an issue.”
Brendan Snyder, a UA and Beta alumnus, happened to be at the chapter meeting that day. Though he didn’t know Palomares personally, Snyder set up a fundraiser on GiveForward.com. In the 10 days the page has been active, it has raised more than $12,000.
“For us it’s not even a question, it’s just that somebody needs help, and we’re going to support him,” Snyder said.
Beta members from chapters across the country have contributed to the fundraiser, and other fraternities and sororities are showing their support as well. Kappa Alpha Psi is hosting a fundraiser at Silver Mine Subs this Thursday, and Kappa Kappa Gamma hung a banner outside its house to show its love and support.
“It’s when something like this happens that we prove to each other and to the rest of the community that Greek life is something bigger than throwing frat parties,” Snyder said. “It’s a lifestyle that continues forever.”
However, support for Palomares does not end at the UA Greek community. Palomares’ cousin, Christi Cisek, is organizing “A Day at the Park with Nick Palomares,” where an auction will be held next month to raise funds to cover his medical bills.
The outpouring of support has gone above and beyond what any of Palomares’ family and friends could’ve expected, Cisek said. Initially organizers were expecting a couple hundred people at the auction, and now they’re looking at more than a thousand guests.
The Tucson community has helped through donations of a venue and entertainment, items for the silent auction and food for the event, Cisek said. Even UA athletic director Greg Byrne has donated a package for three people to join him at the Stone Canyon golf course.
Palomares said the amount of support has been surreal, and it’s something he never expected.
“It’s humbling and awesome to see our UA community engulfed in someone’s battle and help take
it on,” Palomares said.
Palomares said he hopes to return to the UA to finish his economics major in the Eller College of Management, and then he hopes to apply to law school.
“I never really had the mentality of letting this beat me,” Palomares said. “I’ve always thought about what the next step is that I need to take to beat this cancer.”
Palomares began chemotherapy last Monday at the Arizona Oncology Cancer Center. For a week he faced three or four hours of chemo a day, and now he has a two-week break before going in again.
Although the chemo has been stressful and fatiguing, Palomares said he remains positive he’ll be able to beat the cancer.
“I don’t let my mind wander or go down a dark path,” Palomares said. “I’ve always just tried to see the light and told myself that’s where we’re going to go.”