Elida Cano, who took on a mission of spreading awareness of breast cancer among Latinas, died after a hard-fought battle against the disease.
Cano, 34, died Monday surrounded by loved ones in her Elgin home, said her sister, Evelyn Saldaņa. Cano had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in October 2015 and underwent a double-mastectomy and removal of her uterus and ovaries. She was cancer-free a year later but relapsed in May after a weeklong trip to Florida with her husband, her sister said.
Cano worked as a tax adviser, served as a board member for Shared Harvest and Elgin Hispanic Network, and was active at Church of Christ in Elgin.
About 200 people gathered and sang songs Tuesday afternoon at the gazebo on Walton Island in Elgin, where Cano and her husband, Adrian, were married. Her wish was for her memorial to be held there, Pastor Ricardo Barrera said.
Barrera remembered how Cano loved to talk and visit with people, joking that they were forced to gently tell her goodbye at the end of the day. At her memorial, she wanted him to talk about faith and hope, he said.
"Inside, we are so broken," Barrera said. "We are broken, but we are not destroyed. We had some great times with Elida. We have a great family, thanks to Elida and thanks to God."
Adrian Cano, flanked by their 4-year-old son, Isaac, said he knew his wife was special from the moment he met her. "In every place she was, she always stood out," he said.
Elida Cano remained steadfast throughout her ordeal, thanks to her faith and the promise of a better place, Saldaņa said. "Regardless of the outcome, she knew she was going to come out triumphant," she said.
Cano became dedicated to prompting Latinas to do breast exams and get mammograms. She shared her story at the American Cancer Society gala in Chicago and participated in breast-cancer awareness walks, for which she raised money.
She also encouraged people to value wellness and proactively stay healthy, her sister said. "A lot of people took different aspects of her message about positivity and awareness," Saldaņa said.
Cano told the Daily Herald in 2016 that she first noticed a lump on her breast in May 2015 while she was breast-feeding but didn't go to the doctor for five months. That was the only thing she regretted, she said. But "at the end of the day," she added, "this journey has opened the door for so many other people to know about breast cancer."