ANTIOCH -- Gary Agopian has never been one to back away from a challenge. And he doesn't plan to start now, despite a recent diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor.
Agopian, an Antioch councilman since 2010, delivered a heartfelt message with a soft-spoken yet resolved voice at a meeting this week, his first public address since announcing that he has cancer.
With several members of his family, whom he called "his rock and his core," and friends in attendance, and affirming his faith in Jesus, Agopian said he's "embracing what I have, what I have to go through."
"It's important that you know that I am committed to this community," Agopian said. "I am not stepping down, I am not giving up. I am not giving up on my life. I am not giving up on Antioch. I am going to do whatever I can to be the man that I should be for this city as long as I can. And I am going to fight," he said.
Agopian decided Thursday to forego a scheduled biopsy so he could start immediate treatment for the glioblastoma.
Starting next week, Agopian, 56, will begin six weeks of radiation therapy and six weeks of chemotherapy.
The biopsy would have pushed back the time he could start a second type of chemotherapy, Avastin, by about a month. His surgeon and an oncologist told him the biopsy would pretty much just confirm what two weeks of previous tests are showing, he said.
"This route will have more advantages for me, and at this point, it's all about getting every advantage you can," Agopian said. "Hopefully, attacking the tumor without it knowing will help."
The Los Angeles native and 18-year Antioch resident is remaining positive about his future, saying he is starting to map out his diet, exercise and lifestyle plans -- including oxygen use, maintaining a healthy weight and keeping his blood sugar levels in line.
Agopian also plans to continue on the City Council, including campaigning in support of an upcoming half-cent sales tax.
"I am committed to doing everything I can to be the man that God wants me to be, my wife wants me to be, my family, and this community," Agopian said at Tuesday's meeting.
He received a standing ovation from the crowd, followed by an outpouring of support from council colleagues.
"Gary, don't give up, and we're not going to give up on you," Mayor Wade Harper said.
Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha broke down in tears, offering prayers to Agopian and his wife, Robin, while Councilman Tony Tiscareno told him if there's anything "we could do as a family, to let us know."
Councilwoman Monica Wilson offered encouragement, saying the two will be enjoying the Rivertown Jamboree together in 2015, a reference to an earlier discussion about the festival making a comeback.
The difficult diagnosis comes shortly after Agopian celebrated the birth earlier this month of his first grandchild, a girl.
"It's going to be a grind, but it's an honor to have this challenge," he said. "Whatever time God gives me, I gladly take."
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
Video from the council meeting is at www.ci.antioch.ca.us/CityGov/citycouncilmeetings.htm. Agopian's speech starts at the 16:40 mark.