By CHAZ PLAGER
High school is a time fraught with trials and tribulations for any aspiring young adult.
Exams, extracurriculars, credits, community service and more, push high schoolers to their limits as they try to decide how they will pursue lives after graduation.
Yet one Palisades Charter High School Class of 2023 member has overcome all of those normal high school senior dilemmas and more.
Brent Madridejo graduated in June with his class, while in remission from lymphoma.
His symptoms began to appear in July of 2022.
“My mom and dad noticed that I would keep repeating questions to my friends and slept a lot more often, which is abnormal because I would almost never take naps before,” he said.
Madridejo was hospitalized in August and a large tumor was found in the left side of his brain. The diagnosis of cancer came a month later in September 2022. It was a rare lymphoma variant Diffuse Large B-Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Primary CNS Lymphoma (PCNSL).
PCNSL is a very rare and dangerous variant of cancer, usually seen in adults over 65. The cancer has a five-year survival rate of just 30 percent.
Without treatment, those infected will usually pass away after 45 days. It was lucky that Madridejo went to the hospital when he did.
Despite these setbacks, however, he persisted. Madridejo stayed and caught up with school through online classes, as well as occasionally going to school on “good days.” During this time, he was undergoing chemotherapy and recovering from an uncommon procedure called autologous stem-cell transplantation (ASCT).
ASCT involves taking healthy stem cells from your own body and using it to work in place of failing bone marrow. ASCT helps the body fight back against cancer.
Thanks to his efforts, Madridejo was declared in remission in June. He was able to attend Pali High prom as well as his graduation this year. At the ceremony he gave a speech on his struggles and his will to persist.
“Watching him go through this was bad to say the least,” said lifelong friend Nima Hakimian. “But Brent’s been strong throughout the whole process and giving us frequent updates that made it easier to feel confident about the future. I’m proud of him.”
Madridejo was accepted to University of California Los Angeles on April 25, 2023. Currently, he is back in the hospital due to complications, but remains positive.
“Today is a good day! Feeling much better,” he wrote. “Thank God. There’s always a reason to be thankful.”
An excerpt of Madriejo’s graduation speech follows:
Hello Class of 2023! We made it!
I want to leave you a message to reflect upon: something I want you to remember.
I am a cancer patient, who has fought for life every single day – and not knowing – and constantly questioning. What will happen? What am I missing out? Or when will it end?
I’ve learned things start to pile up quickly in my head and it can be overwhelming.
However, one day while undergoing chemotherapy, I remember one of the nurses told me, “Take it one day at a time.”
What does that mean?
As you continue your journey: Focus on today and where you are right now and what you have right now.
Don’t linger over the past too much nor constantly think about the future.
Keep moving along with what the present gives you, because truly the only thing we can do is move forward.
Utilize the time you have. Think about what you have in life right now and where you are right now.
Let yourself continue walking down this pathway called life.
May all your flaws and strengths teach you what is best for you right now. Trust yourself with the present.
The past is done, and the future can wait. Today, we celebrate what we have accomplished. Keep going. Persist.
Thank you Palisades! Remember, “take it one day at a time.”