In March of 2011 I was living the normal life of any immature eleven year old, I was oblivious to my surroundings and practicing my ballet. My compassionate parents even though I am not the only child would drive me five days a week for a 3 hour dance class. My commitment was true for my aspirations were to become a professional, a prima ballerina. When the worst news I could ever imagine being told came to my doorstep. At first, my parents didn’t want to tell me the truth, to protect me, for fear that I would be crushed, but finally when I learned the truth, the devastating news turned my life upside down. I thought that my life would crumble into pieces but what the community at Seton Catholic College Preparatory did for me and for my family, in addition to what I learned from this experience, helped me to realized that it would be the truth that would shape me into the resilient confident person I am today.
The truth. When I think about it now, It still makes me shiver with fear, for on the dark journey my family was on, the slightest deviation off of the path to his recovery could send us all tumbling back down to bottom of the hill. Even now to this day it is a place I do not want to look back on because the insecurities come flooding back. However, it was also this truth, that eventually became the defining moment of who I am today and without Seton Catholic it would not have been possible.
So at eleven years old I grew up. Because, Cancer, had come knocking at our family’s door, however, not for me or any of my siblings, but the man of the house, our role model. Our father and in our home, no one could take his place.
When my parents told me the truth about what was happening with my father, I lost myself, because in that moment, my problem free childhood full of happiness quickly deteriorated into an adult like depression that I could not relieve myself from. Chordoma, a spinal cancer, with 68% at five years, 40% at ten years, and 13% at fifteen years probabilities of survival, and an average recurrence of 30 months. It was a truth that I couldn’t bear to hear. In essence my father had a tumor the size of a basketball in between his pelvis bones, and in order to remove it his spinal cord had to be cut.
The truth then became more than real for me. My father endured surgery upon surgery and for nine months the cold hard truth of my new reality was that my parents became absent from my life and I not only had to worry about myself, but I had three younger siblings that I needed to take care of. I wasn’t sure how to handle this pressure and set of responsibilities to care for my siblings so that my mother could care for my father, so I chose to plunge myself into my school work and to lean on my friends at Seton, but because of the impending medical costs my family was going to have to pay I was also facing the truth that I may have to leave the very community that was helping me cope with this traumatic experience.
This is exactly when Seton saved my life, immediately welcoming me into the family. Seton became my rock to stand upon, all of the staff members and students were always there to help me through. Offering prayers, extra help on homework, a shoulder to cry on, and offering my family and I the financial aid I needed to stay at Seton. I can remember one really hard day my younger siblings were particularly difficult that morning. My mom was unreachable at that time of day due to the time difference I went off to school discouraged when the final bell rang I found myself in my chemistry teacher, Mrs. Bustamante’s classroom. She sat and listened to me talk after school, and the relief and blessing that conversation awarded me was unmeasurable. I can honestly say that I would not be the young woman I am here today talking to you if I had not been graciously molded by Seton’s community.
When I was young and dreaming of auditioning for a ballet company I was concerned only with my dream and how I would achieve it, but because of my dad’s cancer I quickly learned the sad truth that you only live once, then dancing became a superficial way to impact people for I had founded a new passion at Seton for my academic future and me. These small changes, I would find out later on, shaped me into a passionate person no longer taking life for granted, and leading me to impact people as a future physical therapist.
That March is forever engraved in the memory, as the moment I was no longer a child, but the leader I am today, a graduating member of Seton Catholic College Preparatory Class of 2016.
Next year I will be attending Grand Canyon University to major in Biology. Even though I will be leaving Seton, it will forever remain close to my heart. Cause even now as I hit the five year mark of my father’s diagnosis and tests are being retaken to see if there is a recurrence of the cancer Seton has stood by my side. I know that it is only because of my opportunity Seton gave me by giving me the scholarship needed to attend, that I am ready to have a bright future off at GCU, and I firmly believe that Seton will be there for my brother as he embarks on his high school journey as well.