Alondra Garcia, 16, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

A bubbly, cheerful 16-year-old, Alondra laughs easily and often. But ironically, it was her laughter that actually led to a grim discovery last year: she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Alondra and a friend were trading jokes at a party one night last October when she suddenly felt a stabbing pain in her neck. When she noticed a lump there, she made it a point to show her mother when she returned home.

The following Monday, Alondra visited her doctor, who told her to go to the emergency room if some medicine she’d prescribed didn’t clear up the problem. A week later, Alondra ended up at Texas Children’s Hospital.

“No one told me it was cancer at first, but when they brought me up to the Cancer Center, I kind of figured it out,” Alondra said. “In fact, my mother wouldn’t even tell me…she made my brother do it because I guess that’s the one thing a mother never wants to tell her daughter.”

It was her brother who also shaved off Alondra’s hair when chemotherapy began.

“My family and friends have always been there for me,” Alondra said. “They’re so loving and supportive. But when it first happened, I refused to wear a wig. I felt like if I did that, it wouldn’t be me.”

All told, Alondra received four months’ worth of treatment at Texas Children’s Cancer Center.  She kept up with her schoolwork by taking classes online.

“It wasn’t easy, because no one wants to do homework when they’re having chemo,” Alondra said. “But I knew it was important for me to keep up.”

By the end of January, Alondra’s doctors told her she was cancer-free.

“Fortunately, with the type of cancer I have, the recovery is pretty speedy,” Alondra said. “Not everyone can say that, because some cancers take a lot longer to treat.”

Today, Alondra performs on the varsity drill team squad at Lamar High School. She’s thankful the physicians at Texas Children’s always told her the truth about her diagnosis and what she could expect.

“The very first time I met with one of my doctors, she told me that no matter what else happened, she would never lie to me,” Alondra said. “I liked that because I always knew what to expect.”

She also refuses to feel sorry for herself or regret her diagnosis.

“I think that everything happens for a reason,” Alondra said. “Maybe I can help other people now with advice.”

When she’s not at school or dance practice, Alondra spends time volunteering at Texas Children’s Cancer Center and enjoys talking with children and teens who are undergoing treatment.

“I don’t want patients to think that once they get a diagnosis like mine that their life is over,” Alondra said. “I think that being happy can be just as good a medicine for you as the chemotherapy itself.”

Looking forward, Alondra hopes to work as a nurse one day so she can help young cancer patients.

“I want to help them stay positive and remind them not to be afraid of anything,” Alondra said. “They won’t be the first person ever to be diagnosed, and they sure won’t be the last. I’ll tell them that the important thing is to stay positive and to stay happy, no matter what.”