Cancer Can’t Stop this Switch Operator

January 2022 — Watco Switch Operator Charles Karamales beat cancer not once but twice. The second time was this year, after finishing months of radiation treatment. 

His supervisor, Location Manager of DeRidder MeadWestvaco Switching Kory Phillips, said, “When I first found out about Charles’ diagnosis, I told him to take all the time off he needed. We could manage things at work. But he never let cancer stop him from doing his job.”

In fact, he continued to work reduced hours Monday through Friday. He used vacation to cover the time he was away getting treatment. The switching team all pitched in to cover Karamales’ shift while he was gone. 

“Charles made the best out of a bad situation,” Phillips said. “It was amazing to see him come to work every day. He never complained, he was always there with a smile on his face.” 

His support system is one reason he was able to juggle work and treatment during this challenging time. With help from his wife, Allison, they made the nearly two-hour commute from his home to work and then to the treatment facility. 

After Karamales rang the bell at the end of radiation, his Watco family took him out to his favorite restaurant to celebrate.

More than 30 days post-treatment, Karamales recently had a checkup to ensure the cancer was indeed gone. His scan came back clean, indicating that he is cancer-free once again.

Phillips said, “We’re happy to have him back full time. He’s a skilled engineer that takes great care of our locomotives.”

Read about others like Charles who are making a difference at Watco and beyond. See more stories