Young survivors fight back against cancer at Brawley Relay for Life
Allison Rodriguez 4, rides in a wagon that was given to her at the start of the relay after being named the "honorary survivor" at the Brawley Relay For Life's opening ceremony early Saturday at Cattle Call Park. Allison was diagnosed with cancer one year ago and is awaiting the start of her second chemotherapy treatment in May. (eric miller photo / April 28, 2013)
Allison Rodriguez is only 4 years old, yet she has been designated this year’s “honorary survivor” for the relay.
On April 2, 2012, Allison was diagnosed with cancer of the digestive organs. She is scheduled to start her second round of chemotherapy in early May, said Allison’s mother, Angela Rodriguez.
At first, Allison was confused as to what was happening to her, Rodriguez said in Spanish. Allison did not understand why her hair was falling out.
Allison is a normal girl who loves to sing, dance and paint, said Rodriguez, whose faith in God is what keeps her going. She is hoping for a miracle.
Stories such as Allison’s will bring roughly 1,200 people out to support the fight against cancer for the two-day event held at Cattle Call Park, said Ceci Gastelo, event chairwoman for the Brawley Relay for Life.
This year roughly 35 teams are participating, and Gastelo said she is happy to see younger adults getting involved in the event.
“It was awesome to have such young (team) captains,” said Gastelo. “I think young adults are becoming aware especially because family members are being diagnosed with cancer younger and younger.”
Alexander Silva, 22, said many people her age think they are invincible.
Silva knows firsthand that isn’t the case: She was diagnosed with breast cancer on Jan. 21.
“It is important for people my age to be aware that cancer is a possibility,” said Silva.
Silva went on to say that you are your own advocate, so people need to understand their own bodies so they can detect when something is wrong.
Alma Bendidis, a breast cancer survivor, said the first thing that went through her mind when she was diagnosed was, “Cancer is not going to beat me. I am going to beat cancer.”
The survivors’ walk during the opening ceremony can give other cancer survivors courage, said Bendidis.
Staff Writer Alexis Rangel can be reached at 760-337-3440 or firstname.lastname@example.org