Teen Cancer Diagnosis

Alexis Dela Cruz, 18, a Mission Viejo High grad, tells writer Shawn Price why she’s thrilled to start classes at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this month.

I had a little lump the size of a grape on my left clavicle. I thought maybe it was part of my collarbone but I went to the doctor for tests just in case. After that I came home from school one day. My mom was crying. My dad was home, too. I knew something was wrong. Mom told me I had Ewing’s sarcoma.

When you’re told you have cancer, you think, “Am I going to die? Will I have to do chemo? Am I going to lose all my hair?” My hair was down to my waist.

We went to CHOC [pediatric hospital in Orange] and the doctors told us: “You can’t do this. You can’t do that. You can’t go back to high school or go to college in the fall.”

Everything happened so fast. One day I was living my senior year to the fullest. I was in honors classes, editor of the school newspaper, planning on going to every one of my boyfriend’s baseball games, and most importantly, I was excited about attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the fall. Then suddenly, I was in the hospital for 14 days. The chemo was bad the first time. I had all kinds of tests and scans done. One of the side effects was infertility. They gave me the option of removing one of my ovaries and freezing it, which I did. Still I thought, “This isn’t fair.”

But seeing kids there younger than me, it’s not fair for them either. Seeing them get through it, I knew I could, too. Despite surgery and chemo, I still walked at my graduation, went to my prom, and applied to college. The experience has matured me. It ripped away my old life, but it will forever change the way I look at the future. I see it as a chance for new beginnings. I feel like the luckiest girl ever.

 

Ewing’s sarcoma is a rare cancer found in children and young adults, and can appear during puberty. Of 1 million children younger than 15, no more than two develop the disease.

Photography by Jason Wallis

This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue.

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