With soft-spoken intensity, local Latino musician José Carrera has touched the lives of many Minnesotans through the rhythms of his music and as a multicultural consultant and activist. Today, he is fighting one of the biggest challenges of his life.
In 2002, Carrera was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma, an aggressive cancer manifested as a tumor of the supportive tissue of the brain. Through surgery and radiation, Carrera went into remission for five years. Although he has health insurance, his medical expenses exceeded his coverage—leaving him over $79,000 in debt. Through the help of friends, family and donations, he succeeded in paying off the balance and resuming his normal life.
Last Christmas, symptoms began reoccurring, and his family took him to the hospital on December 29. Carrera was rushed to Fairview University, the site of his initial procedure. He received treatment from the same medical team as 2002 and they operated on January 8, 2008. Due to the aggressiveness of the tumor, traditional radiation and chemotherapy are not an option. Hopefully, in February, Carrera will receive radiation treatment with the CyberKnife at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Saint Paul. The CyberKnife is a new technology that precisely directs more than 1,200 beams of radiation. Because of its accuracy, the CyberKnife can use higher doses of radiation to attack tumors. The process is designed to be much more comfortable for the patient.
As a holistic effort to combat the cancer, Carrera has adopted a diet designed by the Dr. Max Gerson and the Gerson Institute, which recommends the consumption of almost 20 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables each day as well as natural supplements. “Nutrition has helped me fight the cancer for years,” he says. “I eat raw fruit and vegetables. This is what I have to do. No meat—no animal protein, no fish, no milk, no salt. Sugar is my worst enemy. There are many fruits I can’t touch. All food is natural and organic—it may be expensive, but it’s the only thing that will keep me alive.”
For over twenty years, Carrera has been an active part of the Latino community in Minnesota. In 1979, Carrera arrived in the U.S. to attend the University of St. Thomas, where he studied philosophy and logic. He also attended the University of Minnesota and graduated with a degree in psychology. Following this, Carrera moved south to attend the University of West Florida. He obtained a Master’s degree in industrial psychology and now uses this education to offer multicultural training through his consulting company, Multicultural Business Solutions.
Carrera helped launch the Sabroson Orchestra, the first major Latino band in the Twin Cities. Ten years later, in 1990, he founded the Latin Sounds Orchestra, which continues to hold widespread popularity.
“I have been a musician all my life,” says Carrera. “The Latin Sounds Orchestra is a premier band. However, playing nightclubs can be demanding work. I took a long break. Now, I perform for special events and for educational purposes. I like to give back to the community.”
It’s expected that Carrera’s expenses will surpass those of 2002. With an anticipated year-long chemotherapy treatment while Carrera is unable to work, debt will accumulate. Friends and family are selling homemade empanadas to support Carrera’s medical treatment, and they are hoping to hold a concert fundraiser in March.
With respect to the future, Carrera is both stoic and hopeful. “After the treatments, we’ll figure out how to pay. Every dollar counts. As a musician and [entrepreneur], I have to reinvent myself and create other avenues of income to cover treatment, nutrition, medicine. This is a second chance.”
Betsy Mowry (firstname.lastname@example.org) works as an arts administrator with COMPAS and the Arts & Culture Partnership of St. Paul.