Very few of Raymond Perez’s classmates at Dutcher Middle School know that he is a survivor.
Last year Raymond, 13, was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, the third most common type of cancer in kids and teens ages 10 to 14. He had to spend most of last school year studying at home — and in the hospital.
“It was a very difficult time in my life,” said Perez. “I cried all the time. I thought I was going to die.”
Approximately 1,700 kids and teens younger than 20 are diagnosed with each year. It is a type of cancer that is found in the lymphatic system that essentially serves to fight disease and infections.
DMS Principal Scott Lucas said Raymond is a very courageous fighter with an amazing will to live.
“School was always his priority and he wanted to make sure he was never behind in his studies,” said Lucas. “He maintained his good work ethic throughout his treatment. His focus was always on school.”
Beth Wyatt, a technology teacher at DMS, worked with Raymond at his home and in the hospital during the 2011-12 school year.
“I would arrive and almost every day he would give me that big smile and welcome me with, ‘Hello, Ms. Wyatt.' We would work diligently at his kitchen table on 7th grade history, science, language arts and math,” said Wyatt.
Raymond worked consistently on his schoolwork, despite the serious side effects he endured during chemotherapy.
“Every two weeks Raymond would travel to Sacramento to receive his chemotherapy,” said Wyatt. “He was usually too sick to work for a couple of days. Raymond always wanted to have his next assignments ready for when the nausea eased up. Several times he’d tell his mom he was ok to work, but I knew from his excessive quietness and half forced smile that he didn’t feel well. Those days we finished early. Raymond was so strong and such a fighter.”
By spring of 2012, the cancer in Raymond was gone. He attended summer school to prepare for returning to school full time — all while completing radiation treatments.
Today Raymond will be honored, along with several other Turlock area students, by local politicians and leaders at the Every Student Succeeding awards program held in Modesto. Every Student Succeeding honors students who have overcome and succeeded against challenges, have gone beyond expectations and have won the hearts of their teachers and staff. The honor is given by the Association of School Administrators Stanislaus Charter and Stanislaus County.
Middle school is just one step on the path to Raymond's dreams. He said he would like to attend college and join the Navy when he grows up.