Louis Lopez of Modern Exposure Sam Carrillo's junior picture
Charter Oak High School

Silent struggle: Living with cancer as a teen

Have you ever met someone who has had cancer? According to cancerresearchuk.org, there is a slightly higher than 40 percent lifetime risk of someone getting cancer, as of 2010. This indicates there is a good chance someone you know has cancer. That someone is closer to you than you would think.

Senior Sam Carrillo had been diagnosed with cancer, and recently came out to the student body during the fall pep rally. This was to promote Key Club’s recent hair drive for people who suffer from hair loss, due to cancer treatment.

Louis Lopez of Modern Exposure Sam Carrillo's junior picture
Louis Lopez of Modern Exposure
Sam Carrillo’s junior picture

Sam suffered emotionally after she was diagnosed with cancer in her sophomore year. For her, the hardest part was “being away from [her] brother and sister.” This strain of being away from family can be difficult in times of stress. People die of cancer, and this fear was around for Sam.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared,” she said.

She heard the grave news and was told that “If I ever went into the ER, I would’ve only had a week to live.”

Sam’s day-to-day life was impacted by her diagnosis. Each day was different for her as she described it, “I would tell my grandma I felt like a pregnant lady because I would have mood swings, cravings, backaches, swollen hands and feet. I was constantly asleep, [but] on a good day I would get out of bed; walk around the hospital a few times.” On bad days, Sam could not eat, had terrible migraines and would have to have been administered medication to sleep.

Sam’s treatment consisted of five different chemotherapy medications for five straight days. She then received aftercare, which consisted of going every month for blood tests and every three months for ultrasound tests. Now she is 16 months into remission, the state after the cancer has been removed; now she goes every three months for blood tests and every six months for an ultrasound. The aftercare extends to every three months for three years.

Through all the negative circumstances that Sam endured, she grew as a person. The struggle has made her a better person.

“I’ll never let my illness define me, but I will let it help shape the person I will become,” she said.

She wants people to learn from her experience not that her life was bad because of it but, to quote Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Sam received her last treatment on May 16, 2014, and was diagnosed cancer-free on June 4, 2014. She is currently in remission and still has a 15 percent chance of getting some other type of cancer as a side effect of chemotherapy. It is not until five years of remission that she will be considered “cured” or a “survivor.”

–Xavier Gutierrez