Beth Sullivan | May 15th, 2019
Tuesday morning, word spread quickly that the Buffalo Bills Superfan Ezra Castro, Pancho Billa to BillsMafia and everyone whose life he touched, had lost his long battle to Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer. His moving obituary can be read here Ezra Castro Obituary.
Our hearts broken as we have lost our dear brother ezra “Pancho Billa” this morning. We are thankful and forever grateful for all the love and support during this journey. Ezra was surrounded by family and loved ones. At this time we ask for privacy as we mourn our loss.
— Pancho Billa (@PanchoBilla1) May 14, 2019
Ezra was introduced to the NFL world during the 2018 NFL draft when Andre Reed and Fred Jackson called him up to the stage to help announce the Bills 3rd round pick – Harrison Phillips. He was supposed to attend the 2019 draft, but his health had taken a turn for the worst and he entered hospice on Thursday of draft week. The Bills Brass still found a way to include him in the draft festivities when they called him from the war room and let him tell the Bills representative whose name to put on the 1st round card – Ed Oliver, a selection Ezra fully supported.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) April 26, 2019
Condolences flooded social media and national news. He had an effect on everyone he interacted with and kept his infectious positive attitude right up to the end. He was only 39 years old and left his partner Veronica and two young children with his passing.
Even in death, he continued to help people with his spirit and positive attitude. He asked that no flowers be sent for his funeral. Instead, he asked that filled book bags be brought to give to kids to help their education.
“I don’t want flowers at my funeral. I hate flowers. I want people to bring backpacks-for-kids filled with school supplies.”
Pancho Billa was well-known as a fan.
Ezra Castro was best-known as a kind, generous soul who saw the good in everything.
— Jonah Javad (@JonahJavad) May 14, 2019
We can all learn a lot from how Ezra Castro lived his life and fought his battle with cancer. He has touched an entire fanbase with his love of his team and his disposition.
Pancreatic cancer is considered to be incurable except in rare instances. One of the reasons for this is that it is not diagnosed early. In Ezra’s case, he was diagnosed with the worst stage of any cancer – Stage IV
Cancer is broken down into 4 stages as follows:
- Stage 0 means there’s no cancer, only abnormal cells with the potential to become cancer. This is also called carcinoma in situ.
- Stage I means the cancer is small and only in one area. This is also called early-stage cancer.
- Stage II and III mean the cancer is larger and has grown into nearby tissues or lymph nodes.
- Stage IV means the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. It’s also called advanced or metastatic cancer.
The higher the stage of cancer is at diagnosis, the worse the diagnosis is and the lower the survival rate is. Pancreatic Cancer has a terrible survival rate. It is currently reported to be 20% at one year from diagnosis and 9% at five years. This sounds terrible, and it is, but 10 years ago the 5-year survival rate was 2% so there has been some success in treating this terrible disease.
In terms of Pancreatic Cancer, it is generally not diagnosed in early stages and is generally identified because of some other issue the patient is having. In Ezra’s case, he was diagnosed a little over a year ago when he was seen for back pain and it was discovered that he had a metastatic tumor on his spine. The symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer are nondescript and most people ignore the symptoms because they can be related to many different conditions.
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has this list of warning signs on their website. If you have more than one of these symptoms and have not seen your physician recently, you should make an appointment and get a checkup. One reason it is diagnosed so late is that there aren’t any definitive symptoms like there are in other cancers.
I am sure that Buffalo Fans will agree with me that Ezra Castro, A.K.A Pancho Billa won’t be forgotten and that we are all better for having gotten to know him in person or through social media. Everyone at TheScorecrow wants to express their condolences to Ezra’s family and know he will have the best seat in the stadium next season – the 50-yard line in heaven.
Questions and comments?
Follow Beth Sullivan on Twitter @GAPeachPolymer
Main Image Credit: BuffaloBills.com/Pancho