Imagine someone feeling they are at an all time high, having everything to look forward to, and nothing to hinder their path. Now, imagine that same person facing a very hard situation to overcome.
This is exactly what the majority of cancer patients, boy or girl, young or old, have gone through when they are diagnosed. “About one to 2 days before my regional championship race, I faced a huge obstacle in my life,” said Sebastian Ortiz, a high school junior who was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a muscle tissue disease that can spread microscopically.
No one can prepare for an experience like this. Not only is the patient impacted tremendously, but the family and support system are hit with a whirlwind of surprises.
“It was devastating. As a parent, there isn’t worse news for your child that you can receive,” said Oscar Ortiz, Sebastian’s father. Once faced with an official diagnosis, all the patients and their families can do is wait and hope for the best.
Many families going to through this struggle find ways to cope with the hard times. For Sebastian Ortiz, running has always been something that has brought him close to his father.
“We have always been close as a family…” said Oscar Ortiz. “…however, running is something that we have both thrived at and had in common.
Together, along with his mother and two brothers, have participated in 5k runs such as the Dolphins Cancer Challenge. In doing so, they have taken action, raising $62,000 in funds for cancer research. Also, Oscar Ortiz biked 100 miles in order to help Sebastian see that anything is possible.
“I always like to let [Sebastian] know that I am thinking about him,” said Eric Pino, a member of the Castaways Against Cancer. The CAC has raised over $700,000 for the American Cancer Society by kayaking from Miami to Key West since their inaugural departure. The castaways don’t only raise money for cancer. They also honor those who have battled or are battling cancer, as each castaway has a close connection with someone who had the disease. This past summer, Pino kayaked for Ortiz.
Like Pino, supporters have the ability to touch their friends and family who are impacted with the disease. After all, Sebastian’s persistence and support from his family, friends, and coaches has also alleviated a lot of the pain throughout this tough journey.
“Aside from always supporting me throughout my battle, he is always pushing me and telling me ‘you’re on my team, I need you’,” said Sebastian regarding Pino. Even the smallest words of wisdom and advice can evolve into so much more in the long run.
Sebastian’s fight with cancer has taught his parents lessons not a lot of people can say they will ever gain. “He does things without complaints, and if he goes through what he is going through, we better not be complaining about anything that’s asked of us,” said Oscar Ortiz.
Sebastian has remained humble throughout the experience, and many faculty members at Christopher Columbus High School speak about him in high regard, praying for him during class and telling stories to their classes about his time in Columbus.
With contribution from Danyel De Villiers and Erick Marrero.