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After recounting incidents and times when I experienced disappointing outcomes, undesirable conclusions, or discouraging results, I thought of my health. For instance, in 2016, when I was an undergraduate senior at the University of California, Riverside, I had a very low heart rate, and I would fall asleep really easily. Turns out, I had a hole in my heart which was causing my heart to work twice as hard as blood was expectorating out of my heart, and as a result, I needed heart surgery immediately. This heart surgery affected my final year of eligibility playing college basketball for UC Riverside, yet, this also led to tutoring and mentoring students at the Riverside City College Disability Resource Center, a California community college in Riverside, CA.

This extraordinary opportunity opened my eyes to a new passion; helping students achieve higher educational and personal lifelong goals. After heart surgery, I started to take my health really seriously and began to eat right, drink plenty of water, exercise daily, and not do anything that could harm my body.

However, this is not the health incident that affected me most. Almost two years ago now, in March 2020, I felt excruciating pain in my lower stomach and lower back, and whenever I lifted anything more than 15 pounds, my lower stomach would ache terribly. I thought it was a hernia, yet, it turns out I was diagnosed with testicular cancer and needed surgery instantly. Please keep in mind, I never met anyone who had testicular cancer and I didn’t know what to expect. After my surgery, and after removing my right testicle, I started to experience depression, disappointment, discouragement, and overall, complete sadness.

Overall, I’m grateful to have caught the cancer early, and not only beat the cancer, but live to tell my story to other people who are going through the same thing. This experience was actually a blessing in disguise because now I don’t think about the year I had testicular cancer, but instead, I think about the year I BEAT cancer! All in all, my health experiences taught me that those who say they can, and those who say they can’t, are both usually right. As a current educational advisor for adult students and student athletes, communication studies professor, and faculty mentor for the Puente Club, LGBTQ+ Association for Student Success & Equity, and Disability Resource Center, I’m extremely proud to share my personal struggles with my students and colleagues every day for inspiration to never give up!