Our teenage years make up one of the most colorful moments of our lives. It is a time of self-discovery, of making friends, and just enjoying life. We are young, and we have every right to be carefree because we didn’t have to fulfill huge responsibilities just yet. The same was true for young Sophie Ruiz. But two days before her 17th birthday, she received tragic news that completely changed what being a teenager meant for her.
On September 20, 2017, Sophie went into the hospital because of a paraspinal mass. A few days later on October 5, 2017, the doctors disclosed the terrible news – Sophie was diagnosed with Stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma cancer.
She could not believe it. She was too young and just a junior in high school.
“This can’t be happening to me. I can’t have CANCER. That’s impossible.”
These were the thoughts running through Sophie’s head when the doctors told her that she had cancer. But deep down, she knew that no amount of denial could reverse what the tests revealed.
She underwent a long and grueling treatment process: five rounds of chemotherapy; a seven-hour surgery to remove the tumor from her spine; four rounds of immunotherapy; a stem cell transplant; and a month of proton radiation therapy.
It was hard to think that a teenager like Sophie had to endure all of this, but thankfully, she didn’t have to face it all alone. She had an amazing support system behind her which she drew her strength from.
Her boyfriend, Haydn, made sure that he was present in Sophie’s life throughout her treatment. On the day of her operation, Haydn woke up at 4 a.m. to be with her for her big surgery and waited for seven hours in the waiting area while she was in the operating room. Haydn had seen her through her worst, telling her that she was beautiful even when she was throwing up in a bucket. Certainly, it was true love that existed between the young couple.
Upon learning of her diagnosis, Sophie’s best friends immediately sprang into action. They made shirts printed with #SophieStrong to raise money for Four Diamonds, which is the charity at Penn State Children’s Hospital that distributes and manages the funds raised at THON. Friends also came to visit her in the hospital, bringing her blankets, fuzzy socks, books, art supplies, and her favorite food. The community also cooked meals for her family which was a really big help.
Sophie wanted to share her reality with the rest of the world, so she decided to post updates of her journey on her Instagram page. She also aims to inspire people with her story.
“I told readers to stay positive and grow from their negative experiences, because that’s how I’m getting through my journey with cancer. When I’m feeling down, I try to reflect on everything I’ve been through.”
Sophie also wants to spread an important message that everyone should hear:
“Right now, I’ve never been happier. Even though all of this has happened to me and I could be sad about it, I choose to focus on the amazing things that life has to offer. Being bitter about something that I can’t change won’t help a thing, so I choose to wake up every day and be thankful. Life is so amazing and it should never be taken for granted.”
We all know that nothing should ever be taken for granted, but sometimes, we fail to take it to heart and forget that every moment in this life should be treasured. Sophie did not let her sickness define her, instead, she chose to focus on all the good things in her life that she should be grateful for.
Sophie has inspired many people through her amazing show of strength and resilience, and we fervently hope that she finds complete healing very soon.