Co-workers help former Castle employee

For nine months, Maria Celedon of Los Osos worked during the busy seasons at the Hearst Castle ticket booth. Then doctors found a cancerous tumor in her brain, at the back of her head.

Surgery in February removed about half of the 3-centimeter tumor, but the procedure has affected the entire right side of her body, she said in a telephone interview Monday. “I can’t walk right or write with my right hand,” she said, and “my right ear is a ‘dead’ ear. I can’t hear out of it.”

She hasn’t been able to work since and is now on disability.

Meanwhile, her former co-workers, some of whom never met Celedon, have been digging deep to help the single mother and her 5-year-old daughter, Esmeralda.

The donations have helped Celedon pay for her medicines, rent and food.

“They give me coupons for food,” the soft-spoken patient said, and more importantly, “they mail me letters supporting me.”

Celedon had six months of radiation and is now undergoing chemotherapy. If the treatments don’t kill off the rest of the tumor in her head, she may have to have surgery again.

But her life has some silver linings, too.

Celedon’s mother, Martina Celedon, lives in Cambria and has been a vital part of the support force.

Maria Celedon is in physical therapy and is doing a bit better because of it. “Sometimes, I don’t have any energy, but some days I feel more upbeat,” she said.

While she’s lost her hair due to the chemotherapy, Celedon said, “I go to the Hearst Cancer Center in San Luis Obispo and get wigs and hats. Massages, too.”

She said she expects to have more tests in January “to see how the tumor is doing. … The doctor said if the tumor doesn’t go away, or it’s still there after the therapy is done, he’ll have to operate again.”

“She’s so sweet,” said Donna Bishop, a personnel administrator at the Castle. “She has such a positive attitude and doesn’t let this get her down.”

Bishop said that even though many Castle employees have never met Celedon, “she’s constantly in everyone’s thoughts and prayers.’’

They’ve held three separate fundraising drives for Celedon, and Bishop said, “I get random cash gifts for her. We’re having a Christmas drive now for her little girl.”

Donations to a benefit account for Celedon may be made at any Heritage Oaks Bank branch.