Students undergo chemotherapy to treat illness

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Students undergo chemotherapy to treat illness

Credit: Kazu Koba/The Foothill Dragon Press

Credit: Kazu Koba/The Foothill Dragon Press

Credit: Kazu Koba/The Foothill Dragon Press

Credit: Kazu Koba/The Foothill Dragon Press

Rachel Sun

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Approximately every four minutes, one person in the United States is diagnosed with leukemia. It is one of the most common types of cancer people under the age of 20 are diagnosed with.

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the bone marrow and blood cells. It is an overproduction of immature white blood cells. There are several types of leukemia, however they all involve underdeveloped white blood cells. Different types include acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia, juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia and myelodysplastic/myeloma syndrome.

Generally speaking, the younger someone is diagnosed with leukemia, the better chance they have of surviving. Of the children diagnosed between 2001 and 2005, 88 percent lived more than five years, while adults have a 40 percent survival rate.

Foothill sophomores Drew Garbe and Ashley Quezada are cancer survivors, both diagnosed at a young age. After two to three years of chemotherapy and medicine, Quezada and Garbe were cleared. As of now, Quezada has been cancer free for 10 years and this November marks the 10th anniversary of Garbe being cancer free.

Drew Garbe

Appearing pale and feeling sick and fatigued were just some of the symptoms sophomore Drew Garbe had before going to the hospital.

Garbe was diagnosed with cancer at the age of two. After days of feeling sick and weak, Garbe was taken to the hospital to have his blood drawn. After running the blood tests, the doctor informed Garbe and his family that he was diagnosed with leukemia.

Garbe’s first year of living with Leukemia was the most difficult. He had a low immune system and couldn’t go outside much and had to go through various treatments. Although he was diagnosed at a young age, he still remembers having to swallow three to four different pills everyday, which were accompanied by headaches.

“I didn’t really remember that much, because I was two years old, but I heard it was hard because the chemotherapy was really intense the first year. After a while, the chemotherapy gets less and less intense and towards the end, it was a lot better,” he said.

After three years of chemotherapy, Garbe is cancer free. Throughout that period of his life, his mom supported him the most.

“She was always there and she always went to the treatments with me and she took me to In-n-Out after, which was great,” he said.

As a cancer survivor, Garbe says it has made him a happier and much more positive person.

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“To the people who have cancer, keep fighting. To those who are supporting the people who have cancer, just keep being supportive, be loving and just be there for them,” Garbe said.

Ashley Quezada

Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of three, Quezada had to go through a series of medical treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation.

“I was little so I didn’t understand everything that was going on, all I know for sure is that basically everyone in my family was there the whole time. They would visit me in the hospital and I would come home and they would all be there,” she said.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia grows an exceptional amount of immature white blood cells in the bone marrow, causing symptoms like feeling fatigue, easily bruising, fevers, among others. It’s the most common type of leukemia to occur in children between the ages of three to give. Approximately one in 500 are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“My mom said that my body got really weak, like I couldn’t get up and walk and I would bruise really easily and I couldn’t move around as much,” Quezada said.

She was diagnosed with Leukemia at a young age, so all she remembers is the doctors removing her bone marrow and having a chemotherapy port-a-cath on her chest. A port-a-cath is a small device that is implemented under the skin, giving doctors easy access to inject the medicine into the vein.

After two years of treatment, Quezada was cancer free.

“I went to the hospital a lot in the beginning and then after I started kindergarten, I think I went every few months, but still regularly,” she said.

While she was living with Leukemia, her parents and grandparents supported her the most.

“I lived with my mom, my dad and my grandma and grandpa, so they were there most of the time. My grandma was there when my parents were working and so she would play with me.” Quezada said.

As a cancer survivor, she hopes to study in the medical field in the future.

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She participates in Relay for Life events, and she was a survivor for the Foothill team a couple years ago.

“[Don’t] give up hope. There’s always something that can be done, and it might not always work, but it’s worth giving a chance,” she said.

Roan Moran

Before going to the hospital, Moran received symptoms like little red dots all over his body, pale skin, and he easily bruised. Later, he and his family found out that the red dots were popped blood vessels and the bruises were from the malfunction of his platelets. Moran was nine years old when he diagnosed with aplastic anemia.

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Aplastic anemia is a rare autoimmune disorder, in which the bone marrow fails to produce enough new blood cells. It can either slowly progress or come up suddenly. Aplastic anemia can leave a person feeling weak, with higher chances of infections and uncontrolled bleeding. Although it is not cancerous, it’s treated with some of the same cancer treatments like chemotherapy.

“The hospital wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but going through chemotherapy kind of sucked,” said Moran. “Even when I got out of the hospital, it was about the same as being in the hospital, it’s just that I was home. Once they took me off the medicine though, it was better.”

Treatment for aplastic anemia includes bone marrow transplantation. It involves killing the patient’s bone marrow stem cell with chemotherapy and then putting in blood-forming stem cells from a donor. Moran’s bone marrow donor was his brother Quinlan Moran.

“I was hooked up to an IV with his bone marrow going into my IV,” he said.

His treatments lasted six to eight months.

Since Moran is not completely cured, he still has to visit the doctors every six months to get his blood drawn. Throughout this period of his life, Moran said his parents supported him the most.

“They basically supported me throughout my hospital experience and they were there for moral support the whole time. I was never really afraid to do anything,” he said.

Moran’s message to cancer fighters and cancer supporters is to “always have hope.”

Background Photo Credit: Kazu Koba/The Foothill Dragon Press

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