September was an awful and wonderful month for Quentin Coelho, husband, father of two and a night-shift worker at the Columbia Home Depot store.
First, he got the news he has stomach cancer. Then, last Thursday morning, he called into a radio station contest. Rockville hit music station HOT 99.5/WIHT FM informed Coelho that as the 100th caller in its Hurricane Cash contest, he had won $1 million.
The prize "couldn't have come at a better time," said Coelho, who is 46. With a diagnosis of cancer, "you wonder what will happen," he said. "This is a little bit of comfort. God is working."
Recovering from a laparoscopic procedure performed Monday to determine the progress of his cancer, Coelho said his wife, Patricia, an executive secretary, deserved the credit for the prize. Before she left for work last Thursday, she set up the telephone to dial her favorite station and told her husband to make the call when the contest was announced, he said. "All I had to do was redial."
The station, which declared Coelho the Washington area's "newest millionaire," is one of 1,213 operated nationwide by San Antonio-based Clear Channel Communications Inc. This was HOT 99.5's first $1 million giveaway. The station said it plans to hold another in the next couple weeks.
Coelho and his wife could have received their $1 million in 40 years' worth of $25,000 annual payments. Instead, they opted for a lump sum of $437,000, which will come to about $280,000 after taxes, Coelho said.
They plan to use some of the money for a down payment on their first house and invest the rest for their daughters, Raquel, 7, and Shauna, 5.
Coelho said the prize won't change their lives. He is counting on going back to his job at Home Depot after surgery later this month.
Results from Monday's test gave him renewed hope about being around to enjoy the future with his family and his co-workers. His doctor told him his cancer had not spread, he said.
"It's really good news," Coelho said. "I can recover from it."
Staff writer Dina ElBoghdady contributed to this report.