ONTARIO - "I've never met a more positive person," said Ontario Mayor Paul S. Leon.

Words similar to that are frequently spoken about Ruben Estrada, a San Bernardino resident and Ontario businessman, who lost a more than two-year battle with two types of cancers.

Leon was among more than 300 people gathered Saturday afternoon for a "Celebration of Life" at the Ontario Elks Lodge, an event that Estrada had planned before his death on Nov. 21 at age 52.

"His death was a total surprise," said Christy Schroeder, who relied on Estrada as a mentor and coach for her Riverside-based event planning company, MAC Event Planning.

She had met with Estrada before starting the business, and he took her and a partner under his wing when they started the firm, offering guidance and tips without charge.

"We didn't know what we were doing," she said.

Estrada never lost his purpose, his focus on family, friends and clients even during the intensive - and very painful - medical treatments prescribed by his team at City of Hope, those who knew him say.

"He kept working all through this. It was really quite amazing," said Dr. Joseph Chao, Estrada's oncologist at City of Hope.

During the worst days of his treatment, when he was under the influence of powerful drugs to temporarily relieve his agony, Estrada had dreams that pointed to new paths for his Ontario-based Estrada Stategies LLC, a 22-year-old business which offers business coaching services to a variety of small businesses.

His wife of 24-years, Lori, said she and his team plan to continue that business.

Estrada's cancer situation was uncommon even at City of Hope, a nationally renowned treatment center in Duarte that sees many rare conditions.

He had neck and tongue cancers discovered at a very advanced stage.

He had a type of lung cancer, unrelated to the others, that was extremely rare - and deadly.

Treatment was a balancing act between treating the two.

"I have beat the odds all my life," Estrada often said.

When the neck and lung cancers were shrunk some, more focus would go the lung cancer, which was ultimately removed by an unusual surgery.

Patients with the advanced cancer Estrada faced usually are not candidates for surgery, Chao said.

But Estrada presented the perfect candidate - he had tremendous stamina and positive outlook and doctors believed, that through the lung surgery, they could exterminate one of the two threats.

Thus with the lung cancer gone April 2011, doctors could focus on the neck and throat cancers.

And those shrunk beneath the level of what today's science can detect in spring 2012.

But by August "it (the neck and tongue cancers) had returned with a vengeance," Chao said.

The cancer had spread to so many locations that radiation therapy was no longer practical, he said.

Treatment with a trio of cancer killing drugs - something that had shrunk these tumors before - was now ineffective.

Estrada entered a hospice in late October. He passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by family, Lori Estrada said.


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