My name is Sophia Ruiz. I’m 17 years old, and this September, my world was flipped upside-down.
In July, I started having severe pain and muscle spasms in my lower back. I was waitressing at the time and my doctor thought the pain was from over-working myself. A month went by and nothing changed. I was still having back pain all of the time, sometimes it got so bad I couldn’t even move.
Fast forward to September. I had just started my junior year of high school, I was about to turn 17 years old. Besides the horrible back pain, I was feeling so good about life and I was excited to start looking at colleges. I was starting to have low-grade fevers almost everyday along with the back pain. Then, I noticed a huge lump in my neck. I figured my lymph nodes were just swollen from being sick. One morning I woke up with a shooting pain down my left arm along with a fever, chest pain, and back pain. We decided to go back to the doctors and they suggested a blood test and a chest x-ray.
The doctor told me the test results would be back within an hour or so... two hours went by. Three, then four, and finally six hours later we got a call. They had found that I was anemic and that I had a mass on my spine. I was sent to a local hospital.
At this point, I’m sure anyone would be scared out of their mind hearing this news, not knowing what was going to happen to them. I was sure it was nothing bad. I wasn’t sure what it could be but I thought I was invincible, that nothing bad could possibly happen to me.
I was taken up to my room and I had noticed a sign on one of the doors ... “Congrats on your last day of chemo!” ... weird. Then another, “First day of transplant!” And then a sign for Four Diamonds. At this point I was just confused. Did they think I had cancer? ME? No. Couldn’t be me.
All that first night, I was poked and prodded and I had scans and tests and questions asked all night long. It didn’t matter, I wasn’t going to sleep anyways. I was too scared.
The next day I was told I had cancer. They weren’t sure what kind yet, my case was different than anything they had ever seen before. Hearing the words “you have cancer” are the scariest thing for a 16 year old to hear. I wasn’t even quite sure what it meant at that point, what I would have to face, but I knew it wasn’t good.
I had a port placed in my arm as most cancer patients do, I had a double biopsy, and I was sent home. My friends and family were so supportive of me and the loved on me a little harder than normal.
On October 5th, 2017, two days before my 17th birthday, my doctors had figured it out. I was diagnosed with stage four high risk neuroblastoma. They told me that this was very rare. This was a cancer only found in young children, not teenagers. This only scared me more. They weren’t sure what to do with me, but they were determined to create a treatment plan that would rid me of this horrible disease. I put my full trust in them that day, for they had my life in their hands.
I started my first ever chemo treatment the next day. I was terrified. I had no idea what to expect. It was rough, I was basically only throwing up and sleeping. A few days later I was sent home, only to be rushed back to the hospital three days later.
I was running a fever of 103° and I was very weak. I tried to walk up my staircase to get to my room and I passed out when I was trying to get dressed. My doctors thought I had gotten an infection through my port so it would have to be taken out and a new one would need to be placed, which meant more surgery.
A few days later, the scariest moment of my life would occur. It was around 3am and I had stopped breathing in my sleep. My nurses rushed into my room and woke me up, shaking me and yelling at me to take a deep breath. I will never forget that moment. After I woke and started breathing again, they gave me an oxygen tube to help me with my breathing and I was back to sleep. I was exhausted.
That was a few months ago. Since then, I’ve had many struggles and many good times. I’ve laughed a lot, I’ve cried a lot, I’ve thought “why me?” a lot. I’ve made new friends, I’ve lost bad friends. And best of all, I’ve inspired many people along my journey. I didn’t write this to make anyone cry, or to make anyone feel sorry for me. I wrote it to tell my story, and to make you appreciate your life, good health, and those around you. I used to think I was the healthiest person and that nothing bad could ever happen to me but I was proven wrong by this horrible disease. With that being said, appreciate your life. Appreciate your hair. Appreciate school and being able to walk up the stairs. Even appreciate the fact that you have blood flowing through your body. You never know what could happen.