By Amy McSweeney - June 16, 2023
When Charlie Agurcia started experiencing excessive coughing fits and chest pain in 2018, he brushed it off as stress. The Honduran diplomat was relocating from Brussels to Tegucigalpa, the capital of his home country. But once he settled into his new home in Central America, his symptoms worsened.
He visited several doctors, all offering different explanations. It wasn’t until he began coughing up blood that he was diagnosed with non-extensive small cell lung cancer. He received one cycle of chemotherapy in Honduras and was told he did not need radiation urgently.
Without access to a PET scan or MRI in Honduras and a failed attempt at radiation, Agurcia connected with International Patient Services at Moffitt Cancer Center in January 2019. Once in Tampa, his care team ordered additional tests. Just days before his 40th birthday, he was diagnosed with extensive small cell lung cancer that had spread to his back. Agurcia underwent four rounds of chemotherapy and countless radiation sessions over the next year.
“Recovering from chemotherapy and radiation is not easy. It has taken a lot of time, an immense amount of patience, and the persistence of my dachshund to recuperate my body,” Agurcia said.
In order to continue his care at Moffitt, Agurcia now lives in Sarasota. He has become involved in the local community theater scene as an actor. He swims to strengthen his lungs and has found mental strength with the help of therapy.
“Looking death in the face is a big deal, and my therapist has guided me on how to process that,” Agurcia said.
He is working on becoming a member of Moffitt’s Patient and Family Advisory Council. He hopes to help others who find themselves in the same position.
“Holding onto hope is easier said than done, but I would advise people to ask for help when hope falters and despair rears its ugly head,” Agurcia said.
On June 11, the Tampa Bay Rays honored Agurcia at Tropicana Field through the Salute to Survivors program. Holding back the lump in his throat, he waved like a pro as he was featured on the stadium video board. Agurcia says he was moved by the experience and remains grateful to have made it this far.
“A cancer diagnosis is a life-altering experience, for both the patient and those close to them,” Agurcia shared. “My biggest advice to anyone in this awful situation is to hold on to hope. The battle against cancer is both physical and mental. Make sure you have support for both fronts.”