Community raises funds for Marfa photographer’s cancer battle

Photo by Fer Juaristi. Lesley Villarreal and husband, Junie, celebrating their wedding in 2015. Villarreal received a breast cancer diagnosis last month, and in the past week, members of the community have fundraised over $20,000 to support the couple as Villarreal seeks treatment.

MARFA — Last month, Lesley Villarreal received the difficult diagnosis of stage three invasive ductal carcinoma. Along with battling the illness, a steadily growing pile of medical bills threatened to add stress to the Marfa resident’s cancer fight.

Like many from the area who receive a diagnosis that calls for specialized care, getting help means traveling hundreds of miles to get the proper treatments. Tests, scans, surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy in El Paso, hundreds of miles from home, await Villarreal as she battles breast cancer.

In response to the news that Villarreal would begin treatment, the Marfa community swiftly rose to action. In just one week’s time, friends, family and community members have donated over $20,000 to help the Villarreals. In town, performances by Jess Williamson and Sam Walker for the Marfa Open Art Festival at Building 98 added contributions to the medical fund, and others have events in the works to continue raising funds.

On the GoFundMe, donors wished her a quick recovery, hoping to see her behind the camera lens and on the dance floor again soon. The Marfa resident and photographer has documented weddings, engagements, pet portraits, landscapes, COVID-era family photos and countless Marfa events in her 10 years living in Marfa with her husband Junie Villarreal. She has deejayed Halloween parties and thrown ‘90s proms, becoming a regular on the dance floors of Marfa.

After a round of scans in late September, Villarreal’s doctors moved her treatments up by a month to begin fighting the illness. Last Tuesday, she began her first session of chemotherapy. Though the fight has just begun, the medical bills have already risen to almost $10,000 between the scans and chemotherapy session. While she has insurance, it isn’t covering much of the treatment, and the family isn’t sure how high the costs will ultimately rise.

Villarreal said on the fundraising page, “The outpouring of love we have received from our Marfa family and beyond is incredible. Junie and I are touched. We appreciate you all so much and have been in tears for days. I am going to kick the shit out of cancer.” To donate toward Villarreal’s costs as she fights cancer, visit