Community rallies to help Collegeville Diner waitress battling cancer

COLLEGEVILLE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "I'm going to fight this," said Elisa Campos. "I can't let cancer beat me because my kids need me."

Campos, 39, spends much of her time caring for her daughter, Leila, who was diagnosed with epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and suffers from migraines. But during 2021, she came to learn that Leila was not the only one in her family fighting an uphill battle.

Campos herself received a shocking diagnosis after experiencing back pain.

"They told me I had stage four cancer in my liver and in my spine," she said. "High-grade neuroendocrine carcinoma."

The news came at a time when Campos, a mom of three and a waitress at the Collegeville Diner, already had enough on her plate. That's when her customers decided it was their turn to be of service.

"I'm one of those people who always goes to the diner for a turkey club and fries," said Todd Sisca of Collegeville. "And there, you meet the most marvelous people."

Sisca, a musician, became good friends with Campos over the course of many years at the diner. But during his recent visits, she was missing from his well-developed routine. That's when he learned of her cancer diagnosis.

"I heard she needed a lot of help. I didn't know it," he said. "And so, I set up an ongoing virtual recital benefit series to help Elisa and her family because that's what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to help each other."

Sisca decided to perform an hour-long piano concert at MorningStar Studios as a way to engage the local community in fundraising for the Campos family. It was streamed on YouTube and archived on the website designed for the cause.

"As far as I'm concerned, music is the best and only way to reach everybody," said Sisca.

The GoFundMe page directly linked on the concert website has so far raised nearly $5,000. Campos was overwhelmed by the support.

"Everybody kept telling me, 'Stay strong. Don't let it get to you,'" she said. "And that's what I've been trying to keep in my mind."

Campos was undergoing cancer treatments at the same time that her daughter, Leila, prepared for her second brain surgery. Leila's battle is something that Todd Sisca empathizes with due to suffering a head injury himself.

"They told me I was going to be a vegetable, so I know what her daughter is going through in certain regards," he said. "When they told me the condition they thought I would be in seven years ago, I said, 'Let me tell you something, have a great day!'"

Now, Sisca runs marathons and is back in the saddle perfecting his piano skills.

"I'm so glad to be back at it because anything is possible," he said. "And I know Leila's going to get through this. She's got a strong heart, that kid."

The next virtual recital benefitting the Campos family is scheduled for February 2022.

To learn more, visit their website.

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