After Battling Cancer, He Wants to Help Other Kids Beat the Disease

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This story is part of a series of profiles the Ventura County Office of Education is presenting about outstanding graduating seniors in the Class of 2021.

AndreswithteamWhen Andres Casas started feeling unusual pain in his legs during his freshman year, he never could have imagined it was cancer. He was young and healthy and loved being a sprinter on the track team at Moorpark High School. By sophomore year, the pain had gotten worse, and then came the devastating diagnosis. Andres had osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer that affects fewer than 20,000 Americans each year. “It was unexpected and shocking, and it didn’t really register with me,” he recalls.

To prevent the cancer from spreading and to avoid the potential loss of his leg, aggressive action was required. Andres underwent ten weeks of chemotherapy followed by surgery to replace his hip joint and then another 20 more weeks of chemo. The chemo treatments caused severe nausea, unlike anything Andres had experienced before. “You can’t really explain it until you feel it,” he says. At one point, he couldn’t eat for three days and lost 16 pounds.

class-of-2021The surgery to save his leg went well but came at a big cost. He could no longer do high-impact activities, including running. That meant he had to give up track. “It was my favorite thing to do,” he says. “It was really tough seeing my teammates running and remembering how fun it was to be part of the team my freshman year.”

His friends and teammates rallied around him, holding fundraisers and visiting frequently while he recuperated. Despite his medical ordeal, Andres managed to keep his grades up and found new outlets for his energy. “I picked up other things like weight lifting to help keep my mind off things, but I still do miss running,” he says.

This fall, Andres will enroll in the pre-nursing program at CSU Channel Islands. He’s hoping to have a career working with young cancer patients like himself. “I could be a nurse like the nurses who helped me, but have my own personal experience to tell whoever I’m treating,” he says.

Andres says his fight with cancer has given him maturity and perspective on life that he didn’t have before. And he’s learned that no matter the hurdles, you keep moving forward.


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