Victor Silva, 12, Leukemia

Three years ago, the biggest worry on Victor Silva’s mind was whether or not he’d score a goal in his next soccer match. The active 12-year-old felt most at home on the soccer fields, playing against other middle school students from throughout Houston.

All of that changed when he developed a cold that worsened into pneumonia.

“My parents brought me to a hospital near our house, and the doctor there said he thought I had leukemia,” Victor said. “He told us right away that I needed to go to Texas Children’s Hospital.”

Victor came to Texas Children’s Cancer Center in December 2009 and was admitted to the hospital. He practically lived at the hospital for five months and even spent his 13th birthday there. Weakened by chemotherapy, he was unable to eat and received nutrition intravenously. He also relied on a wheelchair since the treatment tired him out.

“I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for the nurses,” Victor said. “I love them. They became part of my family because I was there for so long.”

According to Victor, one of the best things about being stuck in the hospital for months on end was a mobile video game unit that volunteers would wheel into his room. The distraction took his mind off of his treatments and allowed him to play with his younger brother without getting tired.

Discharged in May 2010, Victor remained too weak to attend his former school. He also needed six months of daily treatments at the Cancer Center, so homeschooling provided the best answer. Victor kept up with his classmates and was able to rejoin them for his freshman year at Aldean High School last year.

“Even then, I’d still bring my wheelchair to school because I got so tired,” Victor said. “At one point I got really depressed about it, but then I learned how to deal with it. I got to thinking that leukemia wasn’t going to beat me, and that’s what helped me a lot.”

According to Victor, keeping a positive mental outlook through his four-year battle with leukemia became paramount. He attended summer camp last year at the Cancer Center’s Camp Periwinkle. There, he met other survivors of leukemia including one very special camp counselor.

“It was great to meet other kids who knew what I was going through,” Victor said. “My counselor had had leukemia, and there he was … back to playing sports and all. Your friends try to understand what you’re going through, but it’s people like that who really know what’s going on.”

Today, Victor receives monthly infusions at Texas Children’s Cancer Center and also undergoes spinal taps every three months. His doctors predict that he should be in remission by next summer.

“The thing I’m looking forward to most is playing sports again,” Victor said. “Being able to do all of the normal things without getting so tired.”

For all of the negatives involved with spending four years fighting cancer, Victor said that there has been a positive side, as well.

“I think I’m a better person because of this,” he said. “If people have problems, I understand them better now. I can understand their stories and where they’re coming from.”

Looking forward, Victor hopes to attend technical college after high school and one day work as a DJ. After spending so many hours playing with electronics and listening to music while undergoing treatment, he thinks he’d enjoy working with music full time.

“If I could tell someone who’s going through this anything, it would be that they shouldn’t let leukemia beat them down,’ Victor said. “The way you beat leukemia is with your mind … even more than with the medicine.”