Singing is life for Suzie Casta and music has become more meaningful to her after being diagnosed with cancer. One song always gives her strength.
“‘Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong,” said Casta, 44, who earlier this year was diagnosed with lymphoma and had a lump removed from her neck. “Music itself is healing for me, but the message in that song means more to me now than ever.
“It’s about taking the time to appreciate what you have and world around you. It’s about the joy of being alive and I get choked up when I sing it.”
The good news is that Casta said the removed lump has been checked and no other signs of cancer have been found. “I have to go for regular check-ups but everything is fine and I feel healthy,” she said.
You can tell by her busy schedule. Casta – one of the most popular and well-liked performers in The Villages — will be singing and doing benefits. She sings at a benefit for “Dollars For Scholars” on March 29, at 6 p.m. in Laurel Manor Recreation Center. She has a “Las Vegas Elvis Tribute Show,” April 4 at 6 p.m. in Katie Belle’s.
Casta’s many fans appreciate more than her singing. She says they are like family.
“I’ve had hundreds of emails and calls from my extended family in The Villages – people telling me they prayed for me,” Casta said in voice tinged with emotion. “It means so much to me that so many people here care about me. I want everybody to know that I’m OK and I will never forget their love and support.”
Carol Lutgen, of Dollars for Scholars, which raises money for needy young people in the area, said Casta is always willing to help out.
“Suzie has a heart that gives and gives,” Lutgen said. “No matter when you call her or what you ask, she’s always there to lend a helping hand.”
Lutgen believes that attitude will help Casta in her battle against disease.
“Suzie’s got so much spirit,” Lutgen said. “She has a good attitude and that will help her – not just against cancer but in her entire life. Suzie has done so much good for others, I believe God will bless her.”
Casta possesses a warm smile and gregarious personality. But beneath that friendly glow is a tough lady who grew up in Brooklyn.
“My life has never been easy,” Casta said. She was a teenage single mom, who raised her son, Stephen, by herself.
“You find a way to get through challenges; I really struggled to raise my son” Casta said. “I worked a lot of jobs all days of the week, and I didn’t mind. I kept pushing and it paid off.
“My proudest accomplishment is my son. I learned a long time ago that life isn’t about possessions; it’s family and love that really matters.”
Family has helped Casta face her current challenge. Her son Stephen, 28, now works as a college counselor and “he has been with me all the way,” she said.
Sal and Carol Casta, her parents, still live in New York and have also been supportive. Every year, Suzie does a holiday concert with her father in The Villages. But the biggest boost for Casta came from her husband, Mike. “He’s been amazing,” Casta said. “He’s been with me every step of the way.”
The word cancer, “was scary, but it’s OK to be scared,” she said. “It’s OK to cry. But you can’t lose faith. You have to believe.”
And it’s music that helps Suzie Casta sustain faith.
“My greatest worry about all this is that I wouldn’t be able to sing anymore,” she said. “When I sing in The Villages and I look out at the people and I see them smiling and happy, it just makes me feel good all over.”
Casta does not take music – or life – for granted.
“I’ve always appreciated life,” she said. Then she paused a second, looked up and said: “Now I appreciate it even more.”