Examiner.com writer Mai Pham recently posted a story about Samba Grille's executive chef David Guerrero and his battle with recurring brain cancer. By posting the story, Pham entered him into an online contest highlighting inspirational stories around the country called, "America Inspired". Prizes of up to $50,000 may be awarded to winners, and chef Guerrero hopes to win and use the money for an experimental therapy.
Guerrero, once personal chef to NBA basketball player Tracy McGrady, was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 27. During surgery to remove the tumor, he suffered from a stroke that left half his body paralyzed. As a result, he lost his job and went into severe debt trying to fund his recovery. Now at age 29, he has moved back up the ranks, leading the acclaimed kitchen at Samba. Despite his near miraculous comeback, doctors tell Guerrero he has between two and five years to live.
An optimistic Guerrero told Eater:
Just last week, I had a seizure. I had to stop my speech therapy because of the money issue. I'm not a citizen here, so it's difficult to get help and I can't qualify for health insurance. I don't want to take chemotherapy because of the side effects and I was doing some research on clinical trials [...]. It's experimental, but I want to take this chance. I want to see my five-year old child go to school and I want to get married. My friends say I am very intense, but this is my life.
Now that Guerrero has been nominated for Examiner's America Inspired, it's up to the judges to select him as a semi-finalist before final winners are determined by public vote. The judges' decision period stretches until Jan. 27, so Pham encourages supporters to tweet and Facebook their support in order to gain the judges attention.
"His story is just heartbreaking," said Pham. "I just wanted to get the story out, because there are people out there who can help him."
· Houston's most inspiring chef of 2011: Samba Grille's David Guerrero [Examiner]
· America Inspired Contest Official Rules [Examiner]
· All Samba Grille Coverage on Eater Houston [EHOU]