At the age of 15, Joshua Suarez went from being an ordinary kid worrying about school to fighting for his life against stage four testicular cancer.
Suarez, who will graduate from Woodrow Wilson High School later this month, still vividly remembers the day he received the diagnosis.
“My heart sunk to the bottom of my chest when I heard the word ‘cancer.’ I didn’t know what to think, what to feel, or what to do,” Suarez said. “It was really heartbreaking to hear, and all I could ask was ‘why me?’”
The cancer spread to his lungs, with approximately 22 tumors in each one. His life quickly became a whirlwind of surgeries, chemotherapy, physical therapy and life-threatening complications.
Although he could no longer attend school due to the high risk of infection, Suarez refused to abandon his education and took on homeschooling during chemotherapy sessions. He always had a strong love of science and was looking forward to taking AP Biology. However, with no certified homeschool teachers for that course, he decided to teach himself.
“It was a struggle, but I had to do it on days that I felt good and on days that I didn’t,” Suarez said. “I’m really proud of myself that I was able to take that challenge and pass with a B plus.”
Suarez was no stranger to cancer. His mother, aunt and grandmother all had some form of it. All he knew was what he had seen; sometimes it was beautiful for the love and tender moments it brought, but most of the time it was difficult.
After all Suarez has endured, he said his cancer experience helped him spiritually grow. His cancer is in remission and he returned to school at Woodrow. After he graduates, Suarez will attend Albion College in Michigan this fall to study biology.
“I now have a crazy amount of optimism that’s going to set me so far ahead in life. I didn’t know what to do with my life before, but now I see my purpose – to serve others,” Suarez said. “I’ve gotten my second chance in life, and I want to help others have their chance, too.”