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Release of Likeness

After many units of blood and over a year of chemotherapy, Jackie is cancer free and grateful to blood donors who saved her life.

During her senior year at St. Paul’s Harding High School, Jackie Bonilla thrived on a schedule that would bring many full-grown adults to their knees: carrying a full academic load, participating in Admission Possible, a program to help her with college and scholarship applications, plus working at her father’s wholesale food company. “I had to stop playing soccer and volunteering as a nursing assistant at St. Joseph’s Hospital,” said Jackie. “I couldn’t do it all and focus on getting ready for college.”

Just five years earlier, when Jackie was 13 and only one year after she and her family immigrated from El Salvador to the U.S., she was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the soft tissues. “I had uterine cancer, with a tumor that weighed more than a pound,” says Jackie. “One night at the hospital, I had been losing a lot of blood and fainted. I don’t remember what happened, but when I woke up I was in an oxygen tent and was getting blood.” In addition to receiving chemotherapy, Jackie’s doctors removed her uterus to prevent the cancer from spreading. “It took a year and a month of treatments and yearly MRI and CT scans to be sure, but the doctors now say that I am cancer free.”

While Jackie’s father fully expects his daughter to take over his business someday, Jackie is keeping her options open: “When I was in the hospital, I thought that I would never be a doctor or a nurse. But now I’ve seen how much they help their patients, how much love they give.” Because of the level of care Jackie received at that crucial time, she still visits the medical staff at the hospital. Plus, she works to help others in need of life-saving blood by organizing blood drives in her community and encouraging generous volunteers to give blood. “I know God is the reason why I’m still here. The experience made me realize and value a lot of things that I have: my health, my family, my friends, every single minute. I have to do something good and better each day—I’m not here to waste my time.”