Love and Cancer

Brain cancer, unemployment, and love -- is this the recipe for a fulfilling life? According to a New York couple, making it through the week alive and under a roof is enough to say they're blessed.

"Every single week we make it by I have a laugh," said Virgilio Castro, a Bronx native who was diagnosed with brain cancer six years ago.

"My grandmother said there's no such thing as complete happiness but I've found it," said Virgilio's wife, Elouisa Castro.

Some time ago, Virgilio needed to fill a void, which he tried doing by searching for people on the Internet. He met many and traveled all over the world, but nothing satisfied him. In 2002, he logged on to MiGente.com, a Latin American oriented site. At the same time, Elouisa, a recently divorced mother from Rockland County was looking for company too.

After months of online chatting, they decided to speak on the phone.

"I was online to meet people," said Elousia. "I'm not the type of person to chat for an hour and then you come to my house. I've actually formed lasting friendships."

Four hours passed on the phone with Virgil that night, before she decided to get in her car and drive to the Bronx.

"The whole ride down I kept saying to myself 'What is wrong with you?' because here I am meeting a complete stranger in the Bronx,” said Elouisa.

But thankfully, she said, he did not turn out to be a psycho. They drank coffee.

They were married less than a year later.

In 2003, Elouisa found herself driving to the hospital in a storm of 50 mile per hour winds. Virgilio fainted earlier that day and slammed his head on the bathroom floor. A year later, he was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma, an inoperable brain tumor.

The worst thing Virgilio had as a child was asthma. There was no hint, nor any genetic clue that he'd ever suffer from such an illness.

He began taking sick days from work and later that year, he was fired from the job in the New York City Fire Department, which he was so proud to have..

Living in a trailer with her two kids and dealing with her husband’s diagnosis, Elouisa decided it was time to move away.

So they packed their small Geo Metro with all their belongings and decided to move to Florida.

Today, six years after doctors told Virgilio that he had 5 months to live, he and Elouisa are still living in Poinciana. They are unemployed, but Virgilio's Social Security check helps to pay the bills.

Their house is adorned with things he has picked up, what other people would consider their refuse.

"I became the garbage man," said Virgilio. "This started giving me solace, it gave me a job to do and our house is filled with beautiful things, including a 22 inch Sony television."

Virgilio also has a series of YouTube videos he calls "tumor humor." In them, he speaks on his life and his illness over tasteful music. In his video, "smoking bellybutton," the Dave Mathews Band's song, "Joyful Girl," plays in the background. The lyrics sum up his life with Elouisa: "she looks me in the eye and says would you prefer it the easy way, well okay then don't cry." -- Lucy Orozco

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Elvis Ramirez