MCALLEN – 22 -year-old Leslie Saenz Barrera is a proven fighter. In a feature by South Texas College (STC) the Rio Grande City native and STC alumna has been fighting cancer since she was in high school.
While battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, she attended South Texas College (STC) and was able to earn her Associates of Arts in Teaching.
When she graduated high school in 2015 it was hard for her to find the drive to pursue a future with so much doubt. It was her mother who pushed her to keep going to school after high school graduation which turned into a blessing.
“When I was in high school I told my mom ‘I don’t want to go to college. Why am I going to go if I’m just going to die?” She asked. “But it’s because of her that I started college. My mom said ‘At least one class per semester.” I started college because she kind of forced me into but I’m glad she did. I am super happy in the end.”
Her first semester in college was one of the hardest periods in her life.
“I wasn’t in treatment and because of that things were getting out of hand,” Leslie said. “My cancer was starting to progress. The tumor that I had was in between my lungs and my heart, it was crushing them.”
At that point, even the motivation that usually came from school wasn’t helping to keep her healthy enough to engage in classes. She had to step away from college to fight for her life.
Her life nearly ended while her condition took a dip for the worse. She had gone through numerous treatments. From chemotherapy to multiple marrow transplant procedures, various treatments had taken a toll on her body and doctors said she wouldn’t make it.
She was not ready to give up her battle.
“Going to school helped me distract my mind,” She said. “I actually never stopped going besides that one semester. I was too sick. The doctors would tell me I need to rest but going and having something to get up in the morning helped me strive through it.”
Even nine years into a struggle for her life she’s been able to achieve. She now holds a degree in teaching, a business of her own and got married as well.
Leslie said she didn’t let cancer overtake her.
“I’ve always said ‘You’re in me, but you’re not me. So you’re not going to control me. This is my body and I tell you what to do. So get yourself together and get out of here.’”, said STC’s press release.