Like many college students this fall, Armando knows all too well what it’s like to balance a busy schedule with a variety of other commitments. In his home country of Guatemala, Armando was a first year college student who held a full-time job to pay for his studies. And while that occupied most of his time, Armando always found an opportunity to play volleyball, his favorite sport. But in the spring of 2016, during a volleyball match with family and friends, Armando suddenly felt a sharp pain in his left shoulder.
Attributing the pain to sleeping excessively on his left side, Armando took pain medication and continued with his normal schedule. But as the weeks went on, the pain got so severe it started to limit his everyday movements. “I lost a lot of mobility and I couldn’t even hold my girlfriend’s hand,” he said. “I eventually started crying from the pain because it was unbearable.”
When an MRI at a local hospital revealed a large, cancerous mass on Armando’s shoulder, doctors in Guatemala recommended amputating his left arm. Determined to explore alternatives, Armando’s dad researched treatment options in the United States. That’s when doctors referred Armando to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for his treatment and care.
At St. Jude, everyone is so positive and motivated. The employees here enjoy coming to work and they transmit that energy onto the patients.
At St. Jude, doctors confirmed Armando suffered from a type of bone cancer called Ewing sarcoma. After undergoing 10 rounds of chemotherapy, Armando’s tumor had shrunk to the point where surgery wasn’t required. He then underwent an additional 30 rounds of radiation therapy, including treatments to target metastasized spots in his spine.
St. Jude is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. “At St. Jude, everyone is so positive and motivated,” Armando said. “The employees here enjoy coming to work and they transmit that energy onto the patients.”
And it was through that energy that Armando found his own way to contribute to St. Jude. As he underwent treatment, he worked with the Child Life specialists at St. Jude to create a blog focused on helping the hospital’s older patients. “We had the idea to provide useful tips to the other older patients,” he said. “For example, the effects of treatment can often give patients a bad taste in their mouths, so it helps to carry candy or water with you. The little things can make a big difference.”
In June 2017, Armando completed treatment and traveled home to Guatemala. He plans to return to school and study marketing.