As a junior in high school, Carlos picked up running as an outlet for relaxation and fitness. But several years later, just as Carlos was finishing his junior year in college, he had to give up his outlet in order to beat cancer.
The summer before his final year of college, Carlos felt like he was on top of the world. With his whole life ahead of him, he looked forward to graduate school and having a career. But the discovery of a lump on his right knee changed his plans.
After doctors recommended removal of the tumor, Carlos underwent surgery at a hospital in his hometown. No one expected the results of the biopsy — the tumor was identified as a liposarcoma, a cancerous soft tissue tumor. When his physician referred Carlos to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for continuing treatment, the entire family was relieved.
“I saw a change in my mom when we learned we were coming to St. Jude,” explained Carlos. “She said, ‘We’re going to be OK.’ My mom had such an optimistic view of the work done here — just the idea of St. Jude brought her a sense of comfort that no other hospital would have brought.”
Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since the hospital opened in 1962. We won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
At St. Jude, Carlos underwent two separate surgeries to ensure the cancer was gone and 35 radiation therapy treatments.
“One of the hardest parts about undergoing treatment was going from running to being on crutches or in a wheelchair,” he said. Carlos was so determined to keep his life as normal as possible, he traveled between school and St. Jude for his radiation therapy treatments.
Now, Carlos is finished with treatment, finished with college and completing his Master of Health Administration degree this spring. He returns to St. Jude for regular checkups and is excited to achieve another milestone this month: Carlos is running his first half marathon at the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville.
And though he’s grateful to take on these new challenges, his time at St. Jude made an impression. “There was not a day I came to St. Jude that the hospital didn’t put a smile on my face, regardless of what I was going through,” he said. “And that’s something I really took away from the experience.”