Students battling cancer find solace in help of friends


After nearly three months of treatment, Senior Eric Jolley hopes to return to Spring Valley for graduation after undergoing an operation at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Jolley, known as one of Spring Valley’s most enthusiastic students, was diagnosed with Leukemia on November 14, 2015. Originally thought to have mononucleosis, Jolley showed symptoms such as shaking, excessive sleeping, headache, nausea, weakness, and an overall frailness. The once high-spirited member of the cheer team, student council and the football team, quickly became prone to a hospital bed.

“Being involved has kept me busy,” said Jolley of his efforts to visit school and stay involved whenever he can. “It helps me keep my mind off all the bad things.”

But a lot more than his daily schedule was changed following his diagnosis. Rather than waking up energetic and ready to take on his very busy school day, Jolley faced exhaustion. Twenty-eight days of treatment became necessary for him to stay home from the hospital for one week and visit school. His classes were forsaken to take care of his illness, and his involvement in school became limited to online classes.

Despite missing his friends and school, Jolley said the hardest part has been his trips to the hospital . After undergoing treatment, Jolley’s entire immune system was wiped out. With no immune system, Jolley was more susceptible to illnesses and had to stay home or in the hospital to avoid getting sick.

“I just feel so exhausted and weak after therapy,” Jolley said. “It was definitely the hardest part of it all.”

Despite the difficulties, though, Jolley credits the support of his friends and classmates for helping him get through his most difficult times. 

“I feel that this would have definitely been a lot harder on my own,” he said. “It’s been a lot easier with my friends supporting me.”

Jolley, however, is not the only SV student battling cancer. Similarly, Anne Michelle Crisostomo, a junior, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma on June 28, 2012.

“I thought my life was over. I remember crying, thinking everything I worked for, everything I planned for was gone.” Crisostomo said.  “I felt as if I was down-graded for no reason. There were days I tried to do school work and I just couldn’t.”

Despite the difficulties Crisostomo’s and Jolley’s resilience have kept them strong.

According to Jolley, his strong faith in God, his fellow cheer team, his friends and family have all helped make his battle easier.

Jolley’s father also started a Gofundme page in order to help pay for his treatment. As of March 1, donors raised more than $7,300 of the $10,000 goal.

Justyn Taylor-Ricketts, a close friend of Jolley’s, has also been with him for the difficult journey.

“Eric knows I’ll be with him for support and anything he needs,” he said. “I visit him whenever I have the chance.”

Spring Valley students wanted to do more to assist Jolley. In turn, the high school dedicated two basketball games to him, where he was able to cheer with his squad for the first time since his diagnosis.

“I love how it makes me feel,” said Jolley. “I feel really strong.”

Student Council also sold orange shirts (which represent Leukemia awareness) through the week of the assembly to show support.

Despite the difficulties, Jolley still saw the positives.

“I find it easier to be happy, I am much more thankful for everything,” he said.

Even though these students’ hardships are tough, they have managed to find a balance.

Sydney Smith, a sophomore, was diagnosed with chronic thyroid cancer in July of 2015. In and out of the hospital, Smith missed many weeks in the beginning of the school year and had to ask for the school for support.

With the help of her counselor, Smith developed a plan to keep up with her work and make up assignments she missed while she was in the hospital.

However even with school support, Smith explained that going back to her classes was difficult in the beginning.

“I have to push myself harder than other students to get my work done on time,” she said. Smith is taking honors classes, which adds on to the stress of schoolwork.

Despite her many difficult classes, Smith must visit the hospital often to keep up with her treatment. To combat this, she often must complete assignments in advance to stay on track.

According to Smith, social life hasn’t changed since she was diagnosed. She has friends calling and texting regularly, even when in the hospital.

Both Smith’s parents and teachers are supportive of her, “They are very supportive with my situation, making my school life less stressful.”

All in all, SV students have found a way to look at the positive and move forward. Smith hopes to attend class regularly, and looks forward to staying in school for the entire year.

Jolley plans attend the University of Nevada, Reno to become a dentist, and help people smile.

While the endeavors these students have went through have been negative, they want nothing more than a positive life ahead of them.

“I think at the end of the day I’m more able to do this stuff, because I literally fought for my life. I put my all in everything.” Crisostomo explained. “You have a chance for the future. Don’t doubt for a minute that you’re going to get through this.”