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    ‘For my sister’: Merced teen helps older sister overcome leukemia

    By Marco Rosas,


    MERCED, Calif. ( KSEE/KGPE ) – A Merced family is finally taking the time to celebrate and breathe after an unexpected diagnosis completely changed their lives .

    Jocelyn Cervantes says she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in May of last year seemingly out of nowhere.

    “I just started getting symptoms,” Cervantes said. “I’m 22 and very healthy. I go to the gym a lot. I grew up playing soccer and I’ve always been very active— I didn’t think anything of it.”

    Cervantes says her mother noticed she was looking pale and suggested Jocelyn get a blood test.

    “Then the very next day I had went to my friend’s graduation here in town,” Cervantes said. “I get a call from my mom and she’s like, ‘You need to leave right now.'”

    Cervantes said she was unaware of the danger she was in but her mother, who works at a hospital knew based on Cervantes’ blood work.

    After leaving the graduation, Cervantes says she was immediately on her way with her family to the emergency room, where she had undergone three blood transfusions.

    “My hemoglobin was actually at a four,” Cervantes said. “The normal is 12 for women— they were really shocked that I was still walking.”

    Cervantes underwent immediate treatment at Stanford Medical Center in the first month of her diagnosis.

    There she received life-saving chemotherapy and immunotherapy according to her mother, Candace Benomar.

    Cervantes is the eldest of eight siblings, she and her mother say neighbors and friends were just as helpful and supportive as anyone else during Cervantes’ ordeal.

    “Neighbors got together— while my husband was back here with the other kids,” Benomar said. “That was huge— [Cervantes’] good friend and my good friend took rotations picking up and dropping off kids to school.”

    Benomar says thanks to her neighbors she was able to always have someone around to help while she worked 12-hour shifts at the hospital.

    Of the countless groups of people Cervantes and her mother thanked, no one contributed in the way Jocelyn’s younger brother Aiden Cervantes did.

    No one in the Be The Match registry was a match for Jocelyn, but they discovered that Aiden was a 100% match for a bone marrow transplant.

    Aiden underwent the physical process needed to collect the stem cells to donate to his sister while finishing his senior year of high school.

    “School isn’t so hard so that’s a breeze,” Aiden said. “I had to do what I had to do for my sister.”

    Thank to her brother, Jocelyn is now in remission and thanks to the Nik’s Wish Foundation her family was able to surprise her with a grand display and a trip to Hawaii.

    Jocelyn says she is grateful. She says the past few days have been a rollercoaster of emotions after going to a friend’s funeral following her friend’s exact same diagnosis; now she’s looking forward to having some time to let the stress fall off her shoulders.

    Benomar says she and her family are realistically optimistic with the reality that remission is not the end, but that no matter what, her kids are her heroes.

    Benomar also says she hopes people who come across her daughter’s story consider registering at Be The Match .

    “The more in that in that database, the more chances of other patients that are looking for a match could actually survive.”

    Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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