Cy-Ranch Warriors: Sophomore Nathaniel Jimenez Q&A
November 14, 2019
Sophomore Nathaniel Jimenez is a two-time cancer survivor, who had cancer as a child. A Cy-Ranch Warrior, Jimenez has persisted and fought through the struggles of being diagnosed with cancer.
When were you first diagnosed with cancer?
“I was first diagnosed in mid-July of 2006; I was about 3-years-old.”
Do you remember the reaction you had when you first heard about the diagnosis?
“Not specifically me remembering it, but I remember my mom telling me that I would have serious cramps and that I would always feel weak, and if it was after a cold, you would feel really weak.”
Do you remember the moment when you heard the news?
“Not really, I think, because my parents treated it more like ‘you’re going to go through something’, but not as a sickness.”
What type of cancer were you diagnosed with?
“I had Leukemia, and I think it was Stage 2.”
Do you think having cancer affected your daily life as a child?
“As a child, I would say yes in this sense. The first time I had cancer, I think life was still normal, but I had my portacath and I had a PICC line, which they weren’t really strung to anything, so I had freedom. I was always a wild kid; I don’t think my parents took me out so often, because I was so wild, so I would cause tantrums like in the movies.”
When were you diagnosed for the second time?
“I think I was diagnosed again around 2009, around the same time– like August. It was funny, because I got rid of it that month, and then the next month I relapsed. So, I had to go through that. The second time was actually the worst time, because that’s when I had dialysis and had to have a catheter go through my neck for that. That’s when we figured out that I was allergic to blood transfusions, because one of the incidents, I almost suffocated to death, because it reacted with my whole throat.”
How severe was it the second time?
“It was really severe, and because of the radiation, I also was diagnosed with stage III kidney failure. That was also a reason why I had dialysis, because of the kidney failure. Then, I went to see a specialist and went to stage II kidney failure.”
Did you have to get surgery for any time you were diagnosed?
“I had a catheter in my neck, three PICC lines, one in my left, two in my right, and I had a portacath in my chest.”
What were the reactions of your family members when they found out that you had been diagnosed with Leukemia?
“It was a shocker; more of that shocker moment. It was more like, ‘Oh, he has cancer. I guess we have to go to the doctor’s.’, and all that. I’m pretty sure my mom had a hard time dealing with it too, even though I hadn’t really seen it, but she has told me about how she was really affected by it. Especially my brother, he was in middle school at the time, and my mom was my primary guardian of me, so I always feel like my brother didn’t really have his mother around, because she always was the one with the better memory, and the one that could like pay attention to the doctors, and like record everything that I needed for medicine, and remember all of it. So, there’s always that regret in me like ‘What if I did take my brother away from her?’ or ‘What if I took away my mom from my brother?’. I feel like it was hard for him, knowing that his brother, only having him for three years, and him having cancer, and thinking ‘What’s going to happen to him? Is he going to go through some horrible stuff? What should I do? Will he survive?’.”
Did you have hope that you would survive?
“Before all of this, when I was born, I was born premature, which gave me not as much hope that my doctors said, ‘He might not survive being born’, and then I had this [cancer], which was like another shock to me. I’m surprised I have survived this long, and it’s been a blessing.”
Do you remember being treated differently by teachers, classmates, and others?
“For about two years, so kindergarten I don’t really remember; first grade I was kind of [treated differently]; second grade was kind of as well. Between second and first grade, I wasn’t there. So, about second grade, I had a private teacher come and teach me, but she wasn’t really surrounded by students, so we didn’t know if she would carry any diseases. So, we tried homeschooling, and then I went back to school in third grade, and yeah, when I went back, a lot of the students were very supportive of me, because I had like parent attachment issues.”
How did teachers and classmates react when they found out that you had cancer at the time?
“I think when they found out, it was such a young age, that nobody really understood it. So, I don’t think anybody really knew what it was, so they just treated me the same.”
How did being held back a grade in school make you feel?
“I went to second grade, that’s when I kind of left. So, I missed kindergarten through second grade, and I didn’t have schooling for it. So, I was supposed to be going straight to third grade after I finished cancer– intermission after cancer. But, third grade is when we started STAAR testing, so my mom decided that she didn’t want to put that pressure on me, because there are side effects to cancer of learning struggles and remembrance and brain activity. So, they put me back into second grade. That’s also probably why I succeeded in second grade, and also because of the private teacher, and my mom home-schooled me on top of that. So, in a sense, I already knew what to do. I think it affected me for the better, because I had lost so much school time and learning time, it took me a while. In second grade, since I had the private tutor, it wasn’t really that hard. In third grade, it took me a while to catch up, because of the time loss of school. My mentality– I feel like being held back wasn’t too hard on me, because my mentality was for the year before– to third graders. I blended in well, because I was small, so I fitted in.”
How did you face the possibility that you could’ve died?
“I don’t know. I kind of don’t think about it. I don’t think, as a kid, I ever thought about it, because my mom, she told me that when we were in the hospital, she would always let me go around and get stuff for me, because we had a shopping thing that the hospital would do. So, she’d always let me get a toy from there that was under $20, and we’d always go to the craft area, and to like the game area. It was almost like staying at home always, and just playing, and being attached to a pole. So, I don’t think I ever thought about me dying or passing away, because it wasn’t of a sickness to me and more of just something that happened.”
If you did pass away, did you ever think about how people’s lives would be affected?
“Yeah, I kind of did. I thought about, if I did pass away, my brother, for about 18 years, wouldn’t have a sibling. If I did pass away, would my parents try having another kid? Because if there’s a risk that if your child had cancer, then it’s a higher risk for your child after that child to have cancer or maybe something like that. I thought about the people that I’ve inspired. It’s a shocker to me that I have inspired people because of what I’ve been through, and that they go through the same thing. But, I reached the end, to where I don’t have cancer. I don’t think my younger sister would’ve been born. I think it would’ve been a very big hole in my whole family on how they lived. Maybe my cousin [who commited suicide] might still be here, I don’t know, because he did notice how it would’ve affect my family on how there’s such a big hole, and how maybe my family would be closer. They are closer now, because of my cousin. My cousin passed away, and it’s sad to say, but because of his passing, my family has grown closer together, and we’ve been around more– around each other– for the mental support. But like, it maybe if he noticed how my passing affected his family, he wouldn’t have committed suicide, because he would’ve noticed that feels for our family.”
How did you find out that you survived cancer?
“I think my parents told me, and I guess I felt it myself, because we didn’t go to the doctor as often, and, like, I got to stay home or go to school for once. I think I just noticed that I was done with that and I had beaten it.”
How did your family react when they found out?
“They were very joyful, because finally I had beaten cancer and I had survived and even though I had these complications, I am alive and I am here with them to celebrate more moments with them.”
How has your life been affected by surviving cancer?
“In complications-wise, it’s there; it’s not as bad as I think it is, and I make myself think it is. I feel like it has impacted me in a good way, because it shows me how much of an inspiration I can be to other people, and that I am that light of hope to people that they can go through it and can get out to the light at the end of the tunnel. It showed me that even though life will be hard, classes will be hard, you’ve been through so much that you can make it through and that you can do the hard classes in school and you can make it through life.”
Has your experience made you realize anything about life?
“It made me realize that I should be grateful that I did beat cancer, and that I do have a family to go to. It’s also made me grateful that I don’t have the catastrophic effects that cancer has had on people, and that I can walk; I can talk; I can use all of my limbs. I can use my brain, and can have ‘K’ classes, and have AP classes. Some people can’t even go through school, because of how badly damaged their body is and how they can’t function mentally, and that my mom made it so ‘adventurous-like’ that I don’t have PTSD from it and I don’t have these things from it.”
When people typically find out that you had cancer, what are their reactions?
“It’s kind of funny, because I tell people– I don’t know. It’s kind of like if you don’t know the situation or haven’t been around it, they’re usually just like ‘Oh’ or in a way it’s like ‘I don’t know how to respond’, ‘I don’t know how it feels or what it’s been like’, so it’s kind of like an ‘Oh’ of just surprise.”
Do you get tired of talking about having cancer?
“Not really, though, it saddens me, because I have had people talk to me about or ask me about it. Sometimes, I don’t even know, because some of my memories from probably age nine and under, I don’t remember. Like, my memory is wiped out. I don’t know anything besides hospital life, for the most part.”
Do people tend to bring it up a lot?
“I don’t think so, because back then, when I did go to elementary [school], my mom would tell people that I had it, so the teachers would tell the students. For middle school and high school, nobody is really aware of it. So, nobody really asks about it.”
What advice would you give to people currently fighting cancer?
“That times can be hard; times can be rough, and you will feel the sorrow of the other people around you, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and you will face whatever that you need to face, because we are fighters. We will fight to the light.”