It was Aug. 11, 2022, when Lincoln Middle student Zayden Graves was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
However, heading into the 2023 school year, things will be a little different for Zayden. Barring one remission check in August, Graves will be cancer free.
It started in late July 2022. Graves had been having fevers for a couple of weeks. After posting a 104.7-degree fever, his parents took him to the hospital.
“They said my red blood cell count was extremely low,” Graves said.
After multiple tests, they discovered large masses in his chest, diagnosed him with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, sent him to surgery the following morning and started chemotherapy.
“First week or two was really rough,” Graves said. “No real pain, just a lot of soreness. I didn’t want to eat, I didn’t want to drink.”
When in chemotherapy, Graves recalls having no emotion or expression, althougth candy corn helped him through it.
“Out of nowhere, I got this craving for candy corn,” Graves said. “Every time we went to the hospital, my parents made sure they had candy corn because the doctors were just happy that I was eating something.”
Graves spent Halloween — and his birthday — in a hospital.
However, after five cycles of chemotherapy, Graves’ health began to turn for the better. He moved on to radiation in December and returned to school in February.
“I wanted to be a mathematician or in the science field and after my experience, I am inspired to go in the medical field,” Graves said. “Really anything that can try and cure cancer and help out people who are like me.”
Graves wanted to recognize nurse Josh, and a nurse intern Gerald at the University of New Mexico Hospital who really helped him.
“I tried to be very stoic, but I do not recommend doing that; there’s a whole lot of things that could be happening to your body due to cancer,” Graves said. “Don’t give it advantages. It almost makes it feel like it’s taking over you, and you cannot let that happen.”
He also made it clear that when he becomes a doctor, his focus will be on cancer and finding a cure.
“Doesn’t matter the age, I definitely would like to help children, but even if it’s older people, doesn’t make a difference … I just want to help”
His parents advised others people going through a similar battle to utilize the social workers at hospitals and ask as many questions as you can.
They also gave thanks to the Children’s Fund of New Mexico for the scholarships and the other events they planned, including Halloween at the UNM football field, renting out Explora for the kids and more.
“Anyone who has gone through cancer or anyone who is experiencing it currently or is going to, make sure to never give up your hopes, your courage or your spirit,” Graves said. “Stay up and stay high!”