Cancer support network Imerman Angels focuses on Latinos

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In this year alone, about 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer, 20 percent of them Latinos. Now there's a special group dedicated to helping those Latinos battling the disease win their fight.

Close to 40,000 people raced the Chicago Marathon this past Sunday, 10,000 of them for charity. Cheering them on was 54-year-old Guadalajara native Hector Nunez.

The road that led to this day is much longer than 26.2 miles. Four years ago Hector, a food and beverage executive splitting his time between Playa del Carmen and Chicago, was diagnosed with stage four head and neck cancer.

"You're really alone. It doesn't matter how many people you're surrounded by, you don't have anybody to talk to you that understands," Nunez says.

Then an old friend came into the picture who, as it turns out, survived the exact same cancer at the same stage, a year earlier.

"I knew I could be a big help, at least morally," says Joaquin Lomelin.

Realizing the power of talking to a peer, Nunez went to Imerman Angels, a Chicago-based one-on-one cancer support network that connects cancer fighters with cancer survivors.

"Literally, somebody turned on the light in the room," he says. "This guy is actually telling me I can regain my quality of life again. I can be Hector again and do all of the things I want to do."

Today, Nunez is the COO of Imerman Angels. The organization is thriving and expanding, and they now offer their services in Spanish.

"I tell them, this is going to be the hardest part of your life, but you're going to get through it and I'll be here at the end of the finish line for you," says Maria Villagomez, a caregiver and mentor with the Angels.

This year at the Chicago Marathon, 194 runners joined Team IA, among them Hector Nunez, still crossing that finish line for all of those who can't yet do it themselves.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.