VISTA — Vista resident Amanda Hernandez said there hasn’t been a Friday that has gone by where she didn’t spend time with her aunt, Lupe Sutherland. Their close bond built over outings to the movie theaters, Legoland and the nail salon took a turn in recent months when Sutherland, a longtime hairstylist was diagnosed with a rare cancer.
Today, Hernandez is asking for the public to support Sutherland as she battles small cell carcinoma of the ovaries, a type of ovarian cancer with only about 300 known cases, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
“Lupe is not working right now while she’s in chemotherapy, as it’s taking too much of a toll on her,” said Hernandez, who works in marketing. “The main goal is to cover her bills, necessities, and any other expenses that may pop up. Rather than worry and stress about how she will cover the bills, Lupe can focus on treatment and recovery.”
Hernandez said Sutherland has played a pivotal role in her life since she was born in the city of Vista years ago.
“Lupe has played such an important role in my life,” Hernandez said. “She has always been there for me to offer advice, tell funny stories, and encourage me to grow my faith.”
It’s because of that strong relationship that Hernandez was compelled to create a GoFundMe campaign for Sutherland when they learned of her diagnosis. The fundraiser has raised more than $11,000 from nearly 100 donors, but Hernandez hopes to raise $20,000 to cover all medical bills.
The majority of the donors have been colleagues and customers from throughout San Diego County who have known Sutherland through her work as a hairstylist.
“The response to Lupe’s fundraiser has blown me away. The generosity of her colleagues, clients, and friends is incredibly heartwarming,” Hernandez said. “I’ve received so many kind messages from people telling me how much they love Lupe. Some of them have been clients of hers for over 30 years. However, when you really know Lupe — her kind heart and gracious spirit — it makes sense that so many people want to rally behind her.”
One of those longtime customers, and now, donor, is Barbara Keegan. Keegan said she’s known Sutherland for more than 30 years.
“Lupe is one of a kind,” Keegan said. “(She) always has a smile on her face and ready to chit chat.”
In fact, Keegan also had ovarian cancer and found comfort in Sutherland.
“When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2018 my hair started coming out in clumps, of course, I made an appointment with Lupe to shave my head,” Keegan said. “She did not charge me. When I left the shop, we all hugged and tears were flowing from everyone in the shop.”
Other donors are customers who have known Sutherland for at least 35 years.
Aside from fundraising, Hernandez sees the campaign as a way to increase awareness about small cell carcinoma. It’s also made Hernandez even more grateful for her aunt, she said.
“The fundraiser has brought some awareness to the type of ovarian cancer that she has, and necessity to find it early,” Hernandez said. “I don’t think the diagnosis has changed our relationship, but it has changed me. It’s easy to take loved ones for granted when life is normal and easy.
As the campaign spreads awareness about ovarian cancer, Hernandez said Sutherland is thankful for the support she’s received over the last few months.
“She has told me multiple times that she’s thankful I started it,” Hernandez said. “It’s the least I can do.”
For more information about the fundraiser or to donate, go to gofundme.com/f/qz5pg-help-lupe-fight-cancer.
Hoa Quach has 15 years of experience in journalism, garnering multiple awards ranging from investigative reporting to feature writing. She’s been named a “Woman Who Means Business” by the San Diego Business Journal, featured in BuzzFeed during International Women’s Day and recognized by the California Legislature for her work. You can reach her at email@example.com.