That’s just what she did.
The Oakley resident and her husband, Ace Giles, sold their house, bought a motorhome and toured the western United States. Souza figured that such a short timeline meant she should make time count. Souza and Giles went to Washington, Idaho, Utah and saw the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
“It actually didn’t soak in at first,” said Giles, trying to fight back the tears. “Then they started giving us percentages of survival. The largest number of people die within the first two years with that disease.”
But a funny thing happened as the motorhome scooted from place to place. Six months went by, and Souza was still alive. Then a year passed. Doctors discovered that the treatments and the chemotherapy had shrunk the cancer in her lungs and lymph nodes to a safe level.
Now it’s seven years after her diagnosis, and Souza is still going strong. “She’s like Superwoman,” said Margaret’s niece Regina Hernandez. “She’s always been an on-the-go person. She’s busy; she doesn’t sit still – it’s just how she is.”
Souza is a survivor and member of Malia’s Ohana, an Antioch/Pittsburg Relay for Life team that has been a mainstay of the event for the past 10 years. Malia’s Ohana will participate in this year’s event, June 23-24 at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg.
The team is named after Souza’s sister Marie (Malia’s Ohana is Hawaiian for Marie’s family), who passed away from lung cancer in 2002. Three years later, Souza was diagnosed.
“Time just went on,” Souza said. “They say that 3 percent live to five years, and I’m on my seventh year. I don’t know what percent that makes it, but I like it. I definitely like it.”
It was Marie who got Margaret involved in Relay for Life. After Marie was diagnosed in May of 2001, Margaret quit her job as an accountant to take care of her sister.
Cancer has been a nemesis to Souza’s family. Her mother contracted ovarian and breast cancer – and survived. Souza has lost two cousins to lung cancer. Now, roughly 15 relatives and family friends participate in Relay, which benefits the American Cancer Society. On Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. at Most Holy Rosary Church, 1313 A St. in Antioch, the Antioch/Pittsburg Relay will throw a Survivor Birthday Party for Souza and other local cancer survivors.
When Souza was diagnosed in 2005, she felt more prepared because of her experience with Marie. Giles quit his job as an electrician and welder to be at Souza’s side. Souza also fought back following a heart attack while she and Giles were in Utah, roughly a year after her cancer diagnosis.
After doctors told Souza that the cancer had shrunk and showed no signs of growing, the couple breathed a huge sigh of relief. Despite Souza’s concern that the cancer could return, she’s elated to have made it this far.
Through the Relay event, Souza has formed valuable relationships with other caregivers and survivors. “It’s been an amazing journey,” Souza said. “I feel so fortunate, and I thank God for that – that I’ve gotten this far.”
Upcoming Relay for Life dates:
• Oakley – April 28-29, Freedom High School
• Brentwood – June 16-17, Liberty High School
• Antioch/Pittsburg – June 23-24, Los Medanos College