PORTAGE PARK — For more than a decade, Nora and Everett Gutierrez have counseled and helped others in their careers. Now, their Northwest Side community is rallying around them.
Nora Gutierrez, a six-year breast cancer survivor who is expecting the couple’s first child in February, was diagnosed with breast cancer again this summer. The recurrence of her cancer sent the family into a whirlwind of research, medical appointments and big decisions about her and the baby’s health.
The Portage Park couple started an online fundraiser to pay for non-conventional cancer treatments not covered by insurance and research options that do not pose serious risks to the baby. They decided not to undergo chemotherapy during pregnancy but are looking into non-toxic treatments after he is born to help prevent a recurrence, the couple said.
“We have given so much to others in our careers, and now we are learning how to receive in this season,” said Everett Gutierrez, an author, professor and business leader. “For the first time, we are receiving instead of giving.”
The fundraiser has raised more than $36,000 of its $100,000 goal thanks to hundreds of donors.
“To those who have already donated — thank you,” said Nora Gutierrez, a high school counselor. “We believe that through their generosity, they are investing in not just our lives but our baby’s future and the research we have been undergoing.”
The couple has waited six years to grow their family, they said. When Nora Gutierrez went into remission after her first bout with cancer, she said she was told they had to wait five years before trying to get pregnant.
Shortly after they found out she was pregnant with their son, the cancer returned.
Among their supporters is Melissa Basilone, co-owner of popular Portage Park coffee shop Perkolator, where the couple are regulars.
Basilone, also a breast cancer survivor and mother of two, regularly hosts fundraisers at the shop in support of National Breast Cancer Awareness month. All of Perkolator’s proceeds will go to the Gutierrez fundraiser 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday. The shop is at 6032 W. Irving Park Road.
If people are unable to stop by the cafe Tuesday, Basilone encourages folks to donate online. She hopes the event can serve as an opportunity for the community to give and to raise awareness for people to get screened for breast cancer, get routine mammograms and do breast self-checks at home.
“It’s a small way for us to give back and give all the proceeds to” the family, Basilone said. “We have been there and we know how devastating and hard it is … so I was 100 percent automatically on board.”
The couple said they are humbled and grateful for Basilone’s gesture and solidarity with their cancer journey.
“We are extremely grateful, of course,” Nora Gutierrez said. “We love Perkolator, and it’s our favorite little coffee shop in the area.”
Nora Gutierrez recently had surgery to remove a tumor and is looking into treatments to prevent cancer from returning. The family has consulted with doctors and said treatments may require her to travel out of state and take time off work without enough financial support covered by their employers.
Nora Gutierrez started a Facebook page to share updates on her healing, the baby’s health and medical research. While she said it’s been hard to share what they are going through, she said she hopes her story can help other women and find those who have been in her position before.
“I have yet to meet someone who has been in my situation,” she said. “I hope [my story] can make an impact. … By helping us, we can help other women who are in this unfortunate situation.”
The couple also hopes to spread breast cancer awareness and educate the community, as well as showcase the importance of partner support and connection, even with people they have never met.
“It has opened the door to another community that we didn’t expect, to be honest,” Everett Gutierrez said.
He said the baby, whom they are calling Baby G for now, is in good health and is showing signs of being a funny character. After Nora Gutierrez’s recent surgery, Baby G flashed a thumbs up in the ultrasound — a positive sign, doctors told the couple.
“This is the baby’s way of telling you, ‘Mom and Dad, I am OK,'” he said.
You can donate to the Gutierrez’s fundraiser here.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: