A person’s birthday often ends up being the most memorable day of the year. Many remember their 18th birthday in particular as a day of magic — a day of open doors and opportunities. A first taste of adulthood.
For freshman Thanaydi Sandoval, Sept.9, 2014, will be remembered as the day a doctor told her she had Ewing’s sarcoma — a type of bone cancer — in the form of a tumor located behind her knee.
That is how she will remember her 18th birthday.
A year later, after surgery and 12 months of chemotherapy, the Kensett, Arkansas native is finally back at Harding, ready to restart her college career as an international business major.
Sandoval said that Lance Kemper, her orthopedic doctor at Unity Health, was the one who initially gave her the news.
“(Kemper) was the one who told me and my mom that, if I was his child, he would take me to St. Jude (Children’s Research Hospital) in Memphis,” Sandoval said. “And we went that same day; they had everything prepared for us.”
Sandoval said she lived at St. Jude, receiving chemotherapy treatments every two weeks for the past year. In March, she underwent surgery to remove the diseased region of her tibia bone. She also received a portion of a new bone from a bone bank.
After the surgery, Sandoval had to receive more chemotherapy treatments at St. Jude up until the first week of September, after which she changed to a different type of therapy doctors refer to as “maintenance chemo,” which she will take orally until February 2016.
Sandoval’s academic advisor, Director of International Business and Economic Development Mike Allen, said she has experienced all the emotions one would expect of an 18-year-old who discovers she has cancer.
“I remember a time when her treatment was particularly rough on her,” Allen said. “But even during that time when we sat in her room at St. Jude talking, she said she was glad it was her and not one of her two brothers or her mother.”
While she said she is very grateful to be back at Harding, Sandoval said she currently has to wear a mask whenever she is around other people, due to her compromised immune system.
“I don’t wear (the mask) around my mom or anything, but I’m living in Stephens right now, so I have to wear it a lot,” Sandoval said. “It’s different though, because I had to wear it at the hospital, but it didn’t feel weird there because everyone was wearing one.”
Since her freshman year was interrupted less than two weeks into September by her move to St. Jude, Sandoval said she is excited about being a freshman again. She was able to sign up for the same schedule she had last year before she had to leave.
Sandoval’s mom, Mayra Acuna, who works at Chick-fil-A, said she is glad to have her daughter back on campus. Acuna expressed how excited she is just to be able to have her daughter come visit her in the Student Center.