Sep. 07, 2016

We Walk to Make Doris’s Dream Come True

How one family honors a loved one’s memory at the annual Walk to End Lupus Now® event

It was a love story from the start.

Doris Cano and Joey (Joe) Lopez II started dating during their senior year of high school in San Antonio. He turned down an offer to play college baseball because he didn’t want to be separated from her. A second offer came a year later, and this time, Doris insisted he accept, even though it meant he would spend most of his time traveling. “She was never selfish,” Joey says. “She was all about everybody else.” Three years later, on October 24, 1992, they were married.

Their sons Joey III, 22, and Adrian, 20, grew up playing baseball just like their father. From Little League through high school, game after game, Doris was in the bleachers “She came to every game, no matter what,” Joey III says. “Whether we did good or not, she was always proud of us.”

In 2002 she received a lupus diagnosis, but she never let that stop her from helping others. “She got me moving, and helped me lose weight,” says sister Dinorah, 56, who also has lupus. “She would say, ‘Come on, let’s go walk at the mall.’ She was never negative about anything. Her laugh would make anybody laugh.”

And once when she was too ill to take care of her young nieces while their parents were out of town, the girls begged to come anyway, saying, ‘We’ll take care of you!”

Doris lost her battle with lupus on the night of December 24, 2014. She was 45. This was not the first loss due to lupus for the large family of 12 siblings— the oldest sister, Darlene, died from lupus complications in 2002 at age 41.

Despite his grief, there was something Joe knew he had to do for Doris. She had never been well enough to participate in the Walk to End Lupus Now event, although she had always wanted to take part. Now it was up to him. By May of 2015 he had recruited dozens family members and friends to take part in the San Antonio-area Walk. Surrounded more than 50 people who knew and loved Doris, all wearing lavender T-shirts with her picture and holding banners and signs that said “Walk By Faith With Doris,” Joe crossed the finish line with the urn holding his beloved wife’s ashes. It was his way of fulfilling her dream. 

“We have some people who set up a team with one or two people,” notes Angelica Garza, the South Central Texas Field Services Director for the Foundation’s Lone Star Chapter. “Joe comes in with 50-60 people! Having that sea of lavender in the crowd is very, very impactful.”

“The Walk was an amazing thing to be a part of, and to see all the support for my mom,” says Adrian. A pitcher for Oklahoma Panhandle State University baseball team, he has a ritual that never varies:  Before he takes the mound he says a prayer to his mom, and kisses the silver cross with a pearl in the middle that he wears around his neck. It belonged to her.

“In 2015, the first year we did the Walk, I remember we were feeling a little discouraged as the day for the event got closer because we didn’t have that many people,” says Joe’s sister, Lisa Herrera, who helps Joe with social media outreach for the Walk team. “Then a day or two before, and even on the morning of the Walk, people kept calling to ask if they could still sign up. When it was over, we were so caught up in our emotions that we didn’t realize other people were watching us. We all took turns hugging Joe, knowing that it finally happened, that he and Doris had completed the Walk, and a complete stranger came up to Joe and said, ‘I need to give you a hug, too.’”

“At the Walk event, you can really feel the love,” agrees Garza. “It’s really like coming together and letting people know you’re not alone. There’s so much love and positivity, and even though they’re there to honor someone who may have passed away from the disease, it’s something that they can look forward to each year. It’s shining some light on something that can be very dark.”

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