Ilene Moore is fighting for her life. The 68-year-old Canyon Lake resident is battling limited small cell lung cancer. Fortunately, the cancer has not metastasized to other organs in her body. “Due to the aggressive nature of a small cell lung cancer, only about 25 percent of patients are diagnosed with the disease in the limited stage,” said Ilene. “It’s an extremely aggressive cancer and can rear its ugly head anywhere and anytime in my body.”
To date, Ilene has had six rounds of chemotherapy and 27 radiation treatments. She is hopeful about her treatments and beating cancer. “I feel like my time isn’t up yet,” she said.
Ilene is a longtime resident of Canyon Lake. She purchased property in “A Little Bit of Paradise” in the mid-70s and became a full-time resident in 2000.
Although Ilene has no children of her own, she doesn’t feel childless. She has worked with, and touch the lives of, thousands of children, beginning at the age of 14 when she directed her first school play.
Ilene worked at Bufferfield Elementary School in Lake Elsinore for 20 years where she taught music, dance and drama. She also directed a major musical production each year at Butterfield and directed four all-district musicals with casts of more than 125 children.
The former California Institute of Arts student has had a passion for theater since the age of nine and has been involved in more than 200 musicals since 1964. “I’ve either acted in them, directed, or produced,” she said. Ilene also performed two years with the Young Americans, a world renown entertainment group that works with children from all over the world.
Ilene became involved in the Canyon Lake Community Theatre group one year after it was formed. She has directed annual all-kids plays for the group for the past 15 years, bringing her love of theater to the Canyon Lake community.
“My passion has always been working with children. My gift is to nurture and mentor young people so they can expand their talents and gain confidence,” said Ilene. “Some of these kids have magic in their souls, and when given the freedom of artist expression, they soar. Theater gives them life enduring lessons that they can carry over to any profession they choose, whether they pursue theatrical or musical endeavors or something else.”
Directing is Ilene’s passion because it also encompasses musical direction and choreography. She’s started dancing at the age of four and singing at the age of three. “I was quite a dancer in my day,” she said. Ilene picked up singing from her father and has fond memories singing harmonies with him at a young age. “I was blessed with his voice. He had a beautiful pitch and tone to his voice,” she recalled.
Ilene followed in the footsteps of her parents, who were both teachers. Her mother, Lois, taught fourth grade and started an arts based school at Richman Elementary School in Fullerton. It’s at the arts school at Richman where Ilene directed her first play and started a show choir.
“My mother introduced me to theater. All I did was rehearse and go to singing, drama and dance lessons my whole life,” said Ilene. Her mother was her biggest supporter. “She took to me to ballets, plays and everyone of my practices until I learned how to drive.”
Ilene’s mother passed away on Wednesday. Due to Ilene’s treatments, she was unable to travel to Las Vegas to be with Lois.
Ilene’s father, Chester, taught fifth and sixth grades at an elementary school in La Habra.
He moved to Canyon Lake in the early 70s. His move inspired Ilene to purchase property in Canyon Lake. Chester passed away in 2010 at the age of 84.
These days, Ilene spends most of her time resting, going to the doctor and receiving treatments. She is grateful for the help she is receiving from her close friends and community. “I could never get through this without the help and support of my dearest friends, Dianne Freeman, Sue Collins, Charlene and Alex Landau, Leslie Vecchione, Barbara Egbert, my sister Dian, niece Holly, Fred Sutton, the Canyon Lake Community Theatre Board of Directors and my old theater group buddies who take me out to cheer me up,” she said.
The community also stepped up to help their fellow Canyon Laker. When it was discovered that Ilene was too weak to clean her home, a call for help was posted on a community Facebook page. Aprile DeAnne was the first to answer the call, which was followed by dozens of people offering to help. “My wife and I would love to help,” posted Sean Harns. “I’m available to help drive,” posted Mickey France. Christine Suzanne offered to pitch in to pay for a cleaning service, Liz Ireland offered a complimentary facial and Loretta Dudziak and Calista Magee offered to run errands.
Aprile compiled a list of names and went to work arranging people in teams. The first team consisted of Aprile, Lyne Hall, Dianne Elson and Sunny Warren, who spent the afternoon cleaning Ilene’s home last week. A second team is scheduled to clean on Wednesday. Ilene refers to these compassionate individuals as “Aprile’s Angels.”
“You can’t get through something like this alone,” said Ilene. “I’m so grateful to my community.”
Ilene is looking forward to the day she can go back to working with kids who love the theater, helping them to find their artist within.
“I miss the kids so much. It hurts my soul that I can’t work with them,” she said. “I know I have to take care of myself but it hurts my heart that I can’t be with the children.”
Until that day comes, Ilene said she’ll continue to fight cancer with a song in her heart.