Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survivor Builds Legacy in Puerto Rico 

Stories from Survivors

Since being diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2016 and undergoing chemotherapy treatments, Epifanio Figueroa tells The Mesothelioma Center at that nutrition and exercise are more important to him now than ever. 

“After you recover you realize that you have to make some changes in your life. My wife and I decided that we needed to change the amount of food we ate and what we ate. I’m not saying I’m a vegan, but we could say we’re almost vegetarian,” Epifanio shared.

The 8-year survivor says he recognizes the many benefits of exercise, which include increased strength, reduced fatigue and improved mood.

“We also exercise; I like to swim, and we like to walk,” he says. “We’re not doing as much as we did before, but we’re doing it, and we feel much better. I recommended that to people.”

It’s important for cancer patients to exercise during treatments and recovery, according to oncologists. Patients should consult their doctor before taking on any exercise regimen. The Mesothelioma Center offers a free exercise guide that details exactly what types of exercises are best for mesothelioma patients.

Staying Busy With Avocados in Puerto Rico 

Epifanio says he’s able to physically do more now 8 years after his diagnosis than in the past. He’s busy working on providing more produce to his home island of Puerto Rico.

“One day I’m at the farmers market in Puerto Rico, and I see that there is a truck bringing avocados in from the Dominican Republic. I was asking why aren’t there any avocados in Puerto Rico, so I planted avocados,” he said. “I started to bring avocado trees into Puerto Rico. The ones that grow in the winter. So then it becomes that I’m the only person in Puerto Rico with avocados in the winter. We planted about four acres of avocados, and at one point, we had close to 600 trees.”

His avocado farm is located on a large plot of land he bought in Puerto Rico in 1998. It took him 7 years to clear out the rural area. He also built a home there. 

“I wanted to have a house where my wife and I could spend some time in. It’s right on top of a mountain, so it has a fantastic view. We can see the ocean; we can see towns that are 50 miles away. There’s no noise. There’s nobody around. It’s beautiful,” Epifanio revealed.

Despite hurricanes Maria and Fiona destroying the majority of his avocado farm, he says his effort to offer more food options to the island isn’t stopping.

“We’re not giving up; we want to grow avocados,” Epifanio says. “It’s not something that makes money for me, but it’s something for the country.”

Pursuing Legal Action Helped Epifanio’s Journey

Epifanio credits much of his enjoyment in life, including his ability to build a home for him and his wife, to pursuing legal action for his mesothelioma diagnosis.

“I think some people don’t realize that when they ask for a group to help them, they’re not helping the person that is sick. They’re helping the rest of the people who are around him or her,” Epifanio says. “The rest of the people are the ones who have to keep on living without him or her. I think that if a law firm can help you, they’re not helping you so much as they are your loved ones that you are leaving behind.” 

While he wasn’t in desperate need of extra money, he admits the funds will go a long way when it comes to helping his loved ones.

“People say money doesn’t make you happy. In our case, we could have survived without the money. But it’s been a game changer for us,” he admits. “We’ve been able to help my family, which I couldn’t before. I’ve been able to decide that we’re going to leave a legacy for my kids and my grandkids.”

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