Camelia Lara probably won’t live to see her mobile home rebuilt.

Lara, a mother of four and former housekeeper, lives in that three-bedroom mobile home with her two youngest daughters, her 26-year-old son, his wife, and her son’s three kids. She and her son had been working on fixing it up earlier this year, replacing the flooring and turning it into something more livable.

Fixing up that trailer would just about turn Lara’s little ranch into a paradise for the social, family oriented 44-year-old. The goal was a home, a good home, next to all of her family.

“My brother lives next to me, my sister next, and my other brother next,” she said from her hospital bed Saturday. “They have chickens, pigs, goats. But not me.”

Work toward that dream ground to a halt after spring arrived. Lara’s son was laid off, and when his unemployment benefits dried up at the end of the summer the family began to struggle paying for basic household bills and expenses.

And, of course, Lara got sick.

In February she noticed a lump on her breast and was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Doctors discovered cancer in other parts of her body while she was being treated.

“It’s kind of hard,” Lara said Saturday — undoubtedly an understatement.

Lara’s treatment has left her direly weak. She spent most of last week in an Edinburg hospital and, as of Saturday evening, it wasn’t clear that she’d ever make it back to her home in rural Starr County.

“They just told us that she has stage 4 cancer and she might not make it through the night,” Lara’s daughter, Ashley Rios, said Saturday. “Or maybe — I don’t know. To quote the doctor, she’s slowly dying.”

Rios’ mother did make it home, likely for the last time. She was released from the hospital Sunday afternoon and went back to spend the evening surrounded by her family.

Ashley Rios savored every moment of that day.

“She’s gonna stop treatment for the cancer because her body can’t take it anymore and she just doesn’t want to do it,” Rios said Sunday. “But she looks good, I mean, she was stable when she got out of the hospital.”

Rios says her mother has always been outgoing and friendly, selfless and funny with a good heart. 

“She’s amazing. She’s always done everything for us. I mean, like every mother, she has unconditional love no matter what. If you needed her last dollar, she’d give it to us,” she said.

Despite her fragility, Lara has kept being that sort of mother through her illness. Rios says she’ll try to help her mother with the bills and her mother will turn the situation around.

“Are you OK with bills?” Lara will ask.

“I’m fine mom,” Rios will counter, exasperated.

“It’s just the type of person she is,” Rios said Sunday.

Essentially bed-bound, Lara will likely live out most of the rest of her time in that half-finished mobile home.

“They tried to repair the living area and the kitchen, but every area after that is just plywood floors. It’s in living condition, but it’s not the best,” Rios said. “It’s not suitable for my mom right now, but that’s all we have so we’re making the best of it.”

Making the best of it is all Lara’s family can do at this point. But, Rios says, right now making the best out of the time they have left is the most important thing in the world.

“They’re very valuable because we have to spend every second, every minute with her because we don’t know how long she’ll last with us.”

To donate to this family and others, call the United Way of South Texas at (956) 686-6331 between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and inquire about contributing to the Spirit of Christmas campaign. Due to COVID-19, only monetary donations are being accepted for families in need.