Armed with a Spirit of Hope and Gratitude

File photo
Eric Hamilton, seen here at a GEF fundraiser, is fighting a cancer diagnosis.


When people devote a lot of time volunteering for their community, they rarely see the impact they are making. Normally they are so busy working on whatever event or with whatever organizations they have aligned with they don’t have time to step back and look at the big picture. That is until something happens to make them slow down and take a look at what they have done.

For local volunteer Eric Hamilton, that step back resulted from a cancer diagnosis that came out of nowhere. Hamilton rides his bike regularly, he loves to hike and keep active. He eats all the right foods and yet…

“I had just put up 1,000 [U.S.] flags at Forest Lawn with the Rotary in May,” he said.

On May 31 he felt “something” wrong in his stomach. He went to the doctor and at first they thought it could be a gallbladder problem. But there were no gallstones. He started taking antacids to control the stomach pain. His doctor said he wanted him to have a CT scan at Huntington Memorial Hospital.

What they found was pancreatic cancer and after surgery found it had spread to the liver. The illness has brought more than just cancer; Hamilton had to cope with blood clots and everything that cancer treatment entails.

The news about Hamilton’s diagnosis began to get out among those he worked with and volunteered with. He is the president of the Glendale Education Foundation. People were worried about his health and about how his volunteering and his work with Crescenta Valley Insurance would be affected. He is continuing to with GEF and, although he is stepping back from some other volunteering, is still working with CVI clients.

It is a different perspective for someone who has always been the one to help others to see that so many are now reaching out to help him and his family.

“[CV] has the small town feel in a bigger city. People you have known socially and through organizations come together and they are pulling for you. They ask what I need or do I need a ride,” he said. “You’re a member of the community. You are here to help others and don’t expect anything in return, except maybe a thank you, but the outpouring of [concern] and help to our family has been [amazing].”

He added before his diagnosis he didn’t realize how he had affected others. For him he was just being a member of the community.

Hamilton is facing a tough road but has the support of his family, friends and community. He praised his doctor, Dr. Cecila Kaesler, for taking his first complaint of pain seriously and always looking for new treatments that may help. His dad is 80 years old and has driven Hamilton to his chemo treatments at City of Hope. His sons are close by helping him with everyday chores.

His wife, Trisha, has adjusted her business to have more time to take him to his appointments.

He added that his diagnosis has affected friends who will often say, “If you got cancer what does that mean for me?” commenting on his healthy lifestyle.

But cancer does not work that way. Lifestyles, like smoking or heavy drinking, can heighten a person’s risk for cancer, but it is an indiscriminate disease. Hamilton added that, because he took care of himself, he knew his body so when something felt wrong he knew it immediately.

Hamilton wants to make certain that everyone in his community knows how grateful he is for their outpouring of hope, help and concern. There is a food train started for his family, as well as many offers to drive him wherever he needs to go.

“And people will call up and say they are sorry to bother me but they aren’t bothering me,” he said. “It’s okay to just sit and talk.”

Although this is a difficult diagnosis, Hamilton seems to find the bright side regardless.

“There is no doom and gloom. I think I am a positive person. The glass is always half full,” he said. “I do what I want. If it’s a Wednesday and I want to have champagne, I will have champagne. People ask me what’s on my bucket list. I really don’t have anything.”

He added he has gone on great vacations with his boys and wife.

“I have gone everywhere I have always wanted to go, done everything I have always wanted to do,” he said. “Although I have never been to the Grand Canyon, I would like to go there.”

The Grand Canyon may have to wait; he and his family have planned a trip to the Avocado Festival in October in Carpinteria.

“And we have reservations next year for Mammoth,” he said.