Juan Carlos Macías: a story of perseverance in the midst of a cancer diagnosis

The Ecuadorian was experiencing one of his best moments in refereeing when a brain tumor changed everything. He even took leave of his profession.

Juan Carlos Macías was an assistant referee recognized nationally and abroad, who dreamed of attending the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. But an unforeseen cancer diagnosis in 2018 he changed the course of his career and his life.

The native of Salitre (province of Guayas) was always immersed in sports. He loved football but refereeing became his calling.

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“From school I started my career,” says Juan Carlos Macías with a smile, because he always liked playing soccer.

He did it at the Aguirre Abad College in Guayaquil and at the Faculty of Physical Education, Sports and Recreation of the University of Guayaquil. In both he was selected.

And, although he had the title of professional referee in 2007, his life was shaping up to be a footballer. “I had to decide between continuing in the second category or joining the Referees Association to start my career and the passion for refereeing got into me.”

His beginnings were those of any other: directing children’s games (10-12 years), the Sub 14, Sub 15 and the entire process by categories between fourth, third and second division until the First B in 2013.

A year later he reached the First A and also got the FIFA cockade. One of the biggest badges a referee can have.

Everything was going just as he had dreamed. His career had taken off in a few years and he continued to reap triumphs little by little.

He whistled different matches of the Copa Libertadores, South American, the South American Sub 17 and Sub 20 of the years 2015, 2017 and 2019 respectively.

He directed two World Cups, category Sub 20 and Sub 17, in Australia 2015 and Brazil 2019 and his next goal was the World Cup in Qatar. However, a diagnosis left him out.

The assistant referee was prequalified for the 2022 World Cup, but his physical condition did not allow it.

a sudden faint

Unexpected situations like a fairly advanced and aggressive cancer marked the life of Juan Carlos Macías. His plans changed and led to a new beginning.

On May 13, 2018, during a match for the local tournament between Deportivo Cuenca and Barcelona, the assistant referee collapsed on the pitch Everyone was alarmed.

Not even five minutes passed from the beginning of the commitment when the Ecuadorian fainted. In that match, at the Alejandro Serrano Aguilar Stadium “I had my first symptom. With a sting it was enough for me to start seeing blurry, I tried to get over it and I fell. I fainted“.

From his living room and through a computer, Juan Carlos Macías tells PRIMICIAS that do not remember more than that moment in which he vanished during his work.

After he fainted, his teammates, the stadium doctors and other people came to help him.

“They thought that I had a sudden death, at that time there was the “fashion” of soccer players who died on the pitch.”

Juan Carlos Macias

The line judge details that they gave him a pill and he was able to recover. He even wanted to stay in the match but they wouldn’t let him. “They left me sitting on the vocal as fourth official and René Martín (fourth referee) replaced me”.

After the match, Juan Carlos Macías says that he was evaluated by the doctors at the stadium and that only “had a decompensation maybe because of the height.

The next day he went to undergo medical examinations that the Medical Commission of the Ecuadorian Football Federation (FEF) requested. And everything came out “without incident” in the blood tests, electrocardiogram and echocardiogram.

In any case, Juan Carlos Macías did not feel well. He wasn’t the same after that faint. “I was terrified that it would happen to me again because I knew that my career could go away”.

Physically I wasn’t 100% and mentally I wasn’t either. Well, although it seemed that everything was fine, I always carried candy as a precaution and mints in his pockets in case he felt sick again during a game.

He finished the 2018 season as an assistant referee for the Quito League final vs. Emelec, at the Rodrigo Paz Delgado stadium.

In 2019 he continued to work although “he felt that something was happening” in his body. She was part of the arbitration shortlist that was in the South American Sub 20 of Chile, where Ecuador was champion.

He was also confirmed for the U-17 World Cup in Brazil where he had to prepare even more physically, he trained twice “and I felt like I was going to faint anytime”. But still she did not stop working.

In December 2019 he was part of the arbitration terma of the Series B final (Orense against Liga de Portoviejo) and of the second category between Chacaritas vs. October 9.

But the match between Pelileo’s team and the ‘Super 9’ didn’t even come. He couldn’t lead. “The night before the match I arrived in Ambato in a bad way, I was indisposed. I didn’t even eat dinner because I felt heavy, bloated.”

The day of the final “we arrived at the dressing room of the stadium and I went straight to throw up. I couldn’t do it anymore and I couldn’t play that game. They took me to a medical clinic in Pelileo.”

a brain tumor

After losing balance, part of hearing and not being able to whistle the last game he was called to, Juan Carlos Macías decided to go to an otorhinolaryngologist to get checkups.

When having an MRI, the diagnosis was the worst: cerebellar tumor. “Which was already big and we couldn’t do the treatment. At first the forecasts were hard.

The referee’s family was very affected by the news and he had to encourage his family, because he had to have surgery as soon as possible. And for that, the arbitration union did everything possible to help him.

Juan Carlos Macías considers his friends and colleagues such as Omar Ponce and Guillermo Guerrero “angels”, because they, in addition to giving him encouragement, were the ones who were in charge of looking for the clinic and get the doctor to operate.

Their interventions were at the beginning of 2020. On January 9 was the first surgery, where they had to operate on him for hydrocephalus brain tumor product. “I had accumulated fluid and they put a valve on me.”

The following week was the second operation. January 14 they removed the tumor, “Then came the process of a biopsy and to see what type of tumor it was. The result was harsh.”

The former referee had to do eight cycles of chemotherapy and radiotherapy as part of the process to fight cancer, but his defenses were very low. So much so that most of the oncological treatment was experienced within the Solca Hospital, in Guayaquil.

And before finishing your treatment got dengue without knowing it. “I went to the last cycle of my therapy, I had an uncontrollable fever and that produced hemorrhagic dengue, she said.

That was the most tragic and hard moment of the life of the Ecuadorian, who “was on the brink of death.” But after three MRIs, his cancer was completely gone.

“He had no trace of a tumor” and was able to ring the famous “bell”, a symbol that an oncology patient has overcome cancer.

A new beginning

After the “miracle” as Juan Carlos Macías calls overcoming his cancer, he decided end his assistant referee career. Well, she no longer felt in optimal conditions to return.

Since 2020 he preferred to have a fresh start. “I was honest, I knew this was going to take time and I left my FIFA rosette so that a young referee with conditions could continue”, he assured.

I wanted to go out through the front doorwith the finals and the 2019 World Cup, and knowing that I was one of the best, thanks to God”.

Now in his 40s Juan Carlos Macías is referee advisor. This means that instead of being on the court and being a line judge, he qualifies those who do. “Now I have to be on the other shore,” she says with a smile.

His new job includes judging the performance of his friends and former colleagues in an unbiased way.

In his position, the already retired referee has to analyze the control of the match, the physical condition and the teamwork of the refereeing team game by game. In addition to dangerous plays, yellow and red cards, penalties. “We have to analyze the entire development of the refereeing team“.

Although his work is no longer the same, he is still immersed in arbitration. And for Juan Carlos Macías, being active is one of the best ways to stay alive and continue fighting for Vanessa Castañeda (his wife) and his four children: Carlos, Carla, Ana and Thiago.

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Juan Carlos Macías: a story of perseverance in the midst of a cancer diagnosis