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In 1998, the inaugural issue of Promise magazine featured 7-year-old Carlos Rodriguez. What is he doing today?
Carlos Rodriguez has one minor regret in life: He has never learned to use scissors.
“That was something I missed out on when I was little because I was busy fighting for my life,” says Carlos, with a smile.
He and his family were living in El Salvador in 1996 when doctors diagnosed a high-risk form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and gave the 4-year-old boy a 20 percent chance of survival.
Carlos obtained a referral to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where the odds were higher: 60 to 65 percent at that time.
While learning English, entering kindergarten and undergoing treatment, Carlos missed a few milestones—such as learning to wield scissors.
“Honestly, I don’t think I would have changed anything,” he says. “Going through treatment was one of the hardest things in my life, but it taught me to be a better person. It taught me how to grow and to value every single thing that I have.”
Carlos participated in the hospital’s Total XIII clinical trial for ALL, which helped lay the foundation for today’s treatment regimen, with its 94 percent survival rate.
As an adult, he has participated in St. Jude LIFE, an unprecedented study aimed at understanding the long-term impact of childhood cancer and its treatment. Childhood cancer survivors worldwide are benefiting from results of the ongoing project.
Now 22 years old, Carlos is pursuing a college degree in management and working at ALSAC, the hospital’s fundraising organization.
“St. Jude has been there for me every single step of the way,” he says. “I plan to do whatever I can to help the hospital—it’s my way of giving back.”
Abridged from Promise, Winter 2014