Ewing Sarcoma Survivor Has Big Dreams

Written By:Stacy Simon

"I feel my problem was just God's way of letting me know my role in this planet. I am alive because I am meant to help those parents and children who might be affected by this painful and awful disease."

Alexandra Ojeda

Alexandra Ojeda is a senior in college, dreaming of one day starting her own hospital for children with cancer. When Ojeda was only 1 year old and living in Venezuela, she was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

Ojeda’s case was unusual because Ewing sarcoma is more often diagnosed in teenagers. It also typically starts in bones of the chest, hips, or legs, but Ojeda’s cancer was in the right side of her jaw.

“I feel my problem was just God’s way of letting me know my role in this planet,” said Ojeda. “I am alive because I am meant to help those parents and children who might be affected by this painful and awful disease.”

Ojeda was treated in the United States, and her family eventually moved to Georgia. She underwent chemotherapy, and eventually had 32 surgeries to remove and reconstruct part of her jaw.

Georgia Tech Relay For Life

At 23, Ojeda is a student at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and actively involved in Relay For Life, the American Cancer Society’s annual community event to celebrate cancer survivors and raise money for cancer research and patient programs. Ojeda is on the Georgia Tech Relay For Life planning committee and this year will be a team captain for the third time. One of the highlights of every Relay For Life event is the survivors lap, when all cancer survivors are invited to walk around the track, cheered on by all other participants and volunteers. Ojeda experienced it 2 years ago for the first time.

“Walking the survivors’ lap made me feel really happy,” said Ojeda, “and my parents were crying.”

A bright future

These days, Ojeda remembers little from her treatment and has no evidence of disease. She has regular checkups to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned. And she plans to have surgery in the future, to remove scars from her face and from her leg, where some bone was taken to reconstruct her jaw.

“Previously, I was self-conscious,” she said, “but I had cancer and I beat it. It’s something to be proud of. It took me awhile to learn that, but it’s true. I’m trying to accept myself for the way I am. It’s the only way to be happy.”

Although her leg sometimes gives her pain, she is able to go running every day, and loves spending time in the gym, reading in the park, and baking healthy muffins, brownies, cookies, pancakes, and other treats. She uses nutritious ingredients such as oatmeal, bananas, and almonds, and cuts down on fat and calories by substituting coconut oil or applesauce for butter.

Ojeda plans to graduate from Georgia Tech in about a year and a half with a degree in industrial engineering. She hopes to start her career at a hospital, preferably MD Anderson in Houston, the hospital she says saved her life.

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