Villegas inspired by 20-month-old daughter Mía's fight versus cancer
June 10, 2020
By Doug Milne, PGATOUR.COM
- June 10, 2020
- Camilo Villegas spoke emotionally Wednesday regarding his daughter Mía's strength in fighting cancerous tumors on the brain and spine. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
Depending on which wrist he looks at, Camilo Villegas will see one of two reminders in the form of tattoos. If the four-time PGA TOUR winner opts for the underside of his right wrist, “Attitude” in cursive letters gets his attention. If he looks left, “Positive Energy” serves as reminder.
He’s been looking at the words a lot lately … and living by them.
In the mid-2000s, the Medellin, Colombia native took the golfing world by storm. He bettered three runner-up finishes on the PGA TOUR in 2006 and 2007 with his first two titles in 2008 at the BMW Championship and TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola. Both events were part of the FedExCup Playoffs.
He would rise to as high as No. 7 in the Official World Golf Ranking, before adding two more TOUR titles at The Honda Classic in 2010 and 2014 Wyndham Championship.
In 97 TOUR starts after his win in Greensboro, North Carolina, Villegas would claim just two top-10 finishes. A large reason for that was nagging shoulder pain.
By way of major surgery two years ago, Villegas took care of his injury and become enthusiastic to make a return to golf at this week’s Korn Ferry Challenge at TPC Sawgrass.
But, when another physical setback arose, Villegas found himself more reliant on those words engraved into his wrists than ever.
Eighteen months ago, Villegas and wife Maria welcomed their first child to the world, a girl named Mía.
In March at The Honda Classic – his first TOUR start since missing the cut at the 2018 Houston Open – Villegas and his wife were noticing Mía a bit out of sorts on a more regular basis. It became uncharacteristic behavior neither parent was comfortable with.
“She always went to the gym with me; it was one of our bonding spots,” Villegas recalled. “She was always like a little monkey, climbing on everything. But then one day, I noticed she had not been climbing on anything. She had also been crying a little more than normal at night. She had been teething, so we took her to the pediatrician, thinking it was that.”
Villegas admits that his first thoughts wouldn’t have jibed with the inked messages on his wrists.
“I’ll admit, bad feelings crossed my mind,” he said. “I had heard bad stories here and there. So, I told my wife about that concerns. She told me not to think like that.”
But, deep down, Maria was facing the same fears.
On March 14, the Villegas’ took 17-month-old Mía to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami for scans. The results revealed tumors growing on her brain and spine.
Mía underwent surgery, but Camilo and Maria were told there would be more treatment to come, because of persisting issues.
“After the surgery, when it was time to remove the stitches, they learned the growth had become pretty aggressive,” he said. “We were told we needed to start treatment right away, so they kept us there. Physically, though, she wasn’t ready to get the kind of chemo doctors were hoping for.”
The alternative became what Villegas referred to as “baby chemotherapy.” He remembers asking the doctor about the strength of this course of treatment for his daughter.
“He said that if he had given me the treatment, I wouldn’t have survived,” Villegas said.
Mía has since completed the first of three more aggressive rounds, each taking upwards of a month. Less than two weeks ago, she began the second.
“It’s not easy, but I have actually seen Mía playing while she’s crying,” Villegas said. “She does want to play. She’s a kid. She’s young and naïve, but she’s also really tough. We just don’t know. The doctors explained that sometimes the tumors grow fast and disappear fast. So, in about six weeks, we will learn more and know where we stand.”
A detailed scan will take place after the three rounds.
“My wife has been very, very strong,” Villegas said of Maria. “But, at the same time, I’ve also known that there is no option other than to be strong. You can either be strong or you can give up. And we aren’t giving up, because we do see it in Mía. She has been fighting like crazy and just isn’t giving up.”
Camilo Villegas reflects on daughter Mia's cancer diagnosis and fight
Disclosing information about their situation is not a rally cry for attention. Far from it. If anything, Villegas hopes for all people to remain true to two of the only things people can control: attitude and positive energy. If some of that feeds down their way in this difficult time, Camilo and Maria would be welcoming.
“I do not want anyone to feel sad for the Villegas family,” he said. “This is our reality and all I want is to receive the good energy. I just want people to think past this stuff and see little Mía growing up and playing. I truly believe in all the energy and prayers. That’s what we would like. It’s very easy to feel sorry for people when they are going through tough times. I’ve done it, but that’s not what I’m asking for. Maria and I are asking for good energy.”
As to his decision to compete on the Korn Ferry Tour this week? Well, that came courtesy of a wife who knows her husband well.
“You’ve got to follow your instincts, and honestly I don’t know if my instincts are to come play this week,” Villegas admitted. “It has been weird. I don’t really know where my mind is. I know where my heart is. But you also have to listen to the people that love you, and that’s what my wife said; ‘Just go out there and enjoy. Golf is what you’ve done these years, golf has given you so many great things, and little Mía is inspiring the last few months to keep doing what we’re doing.’”I just want people to think past this stuff and see little Mía growing up and playing. I truly believe in all the energy and prayers.
This week’s Korn Ferry Challenge at TPC Sawgrass will mark Villegas’ fourth of five Korn Ferry Tour rehab starts on a PGA TOUR medical extension, where he will have 13 starts to earn 287.683 FedExCup Points.
“I don’t really know what to expect this week,” Villegas said. “I don’t really know what I want for now. I just want to be there for Mía and support her. When I’m mentally ready, I’ll get back. This week is just a drive up, be with my brother, get my mind away, see people, enjoy the game I love and go back to Mía next week.”
And when Villegas does, not only will he have reminders of attitude and positive energy on his wrists, but, more importantly, he will have Mía in his arms.
“Remaining strong and positive is the only option,” Villegas said. “When this happened, I cried for three days. But, even though I needed to cry for three days, I realized that wasn’t the solution. It’s not about being strong, like in an ‘aggressive strong,’ it’s about being mentally strong. You can listen to your emotions, but you’ve always got to go back to that positive attitude, good energy and hope. That is what will keep you moving forward. That is what keeps us moving forward. Mía will keep fighting, and hopefully one day soon we’ll celebrate when everything with her is clear.”