Jason Cowan
The Union Democrat

A holiday themed fundraiser hosted by the Angels Camp Veterinary Hospital will attempt to raise funds later this month for a longtime employee who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.

Alyx Rodriguez, an administrative assistant at the hospital, said a pet photo shoot is scheduled for Dec. 18 to raise money for Chris O’Connor, a head technician at the pet clinic who was diagnosed about three months ago.

Rodriguez said O’Connor, who could not be reached for comment, had been employed with the veterinary hospital for the past 25 years. O’Connor took a leave of absence from her position about two months ago.

Rodriguez described her colleague as a compassionate individual who is dedicated to her work. She added the 49-year-old cancer patient returns to the hospital during “her good days” to help out.

“She has a great support system here,” said Rodriguez, the organizer of the event.

Stage 4 breast cancer, formally known as metastatic breast cancer according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, is a form of disease that has spread to other organs of the body. Rodriguez said O’Connor’s cancer has spread to her bones.

“The goal is to do chemotherapy and try to get the disease into remission. That’s the only option right now,” Rodriguez said.

Information from the Susan G. Komen Foundation said prognosis varies from patient to patient. Generally, 37 percent of those diagnosed are alive three years later. Rodriguez said O’Connor remains resilient.

“She is a very strong (person),” Rodriguez said. “That’s what is great about her.”

The event will take place for two hours beginning at noon. Rodriguez said they will provide props for use in the pictures but emphasized others who do not wish for a holiday photo can pursue other themes. The will be extended if demand is high enough.

“If we get more, it will last longer,” she said.

All proceeds will go toward O’Connor and her fight. The hospital will also accept donations on her behalf.

Rodriguez said she hopes they raise between $5 and $10 per person. She said, compounded with the 50 attendees she estimated the event could attract, it could raise a helpful amount for O’Connor.

“This is the time of year where people are buying Christmas gifts. I’m hoping to just make anything for her. I don’t think I’m looking for the biggest or tallest number,” she said. “I hope people can do what they can. If we get 50 and get $5 to $10 a person, that would be great. I’m keeping my hopes up. Whatever we get is what we get.”