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Sergio’s Story After 7 Years of Surviving AML

Sergio Balderas graduated from Texas Tech in 2015 with big plans for his future. But one week after graduation, his life changed. His 5-year goal was simply to survive.

Sergio Balderas with his family in front of a sign saying "I am Hope"

Sergio Balderas graduated from Texas Tech in 2015 with big plans for his future. 26 years old, armed with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, he had a five-year goal to become a senior manager with FedEx. But one week after graduation, his life changed. His 5-year goal was simply to survive.

Symptoms ranging from heart issues, skin infections, night sweats, and fever, came on quickly, sending him to the hospital. Doctors performed multiple tests and answers were hard to come by. While his blood work was normal at first, within six months there were big changes leading to a diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) – a precursor to leukemia. His doctor referred him to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

Sergio made the 9-hour journey to Houston. During his commute back to Lubbock, Texas, his doctors at MD Anderson called him and delivered the diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Within two weeks of his diagnosis, he was told he would have to move 500 miles from home. He would be there for the next year. 

The first round of chemotherapy was part of a clinical trial. Doctors suggested he enroll immediately because they said he needed a bone marrow transplant and several other treatments. Once in treatment he spent many hours in the hospital. After his bone marrow transplant he was required to stay in Houston for up to 100 days. Ultimately, his family got a small apartment near the hospital. 

Costs added up quickly. Sergio was on medical leave from his job. His mom was working remotely when possible. His Dad took family leave. His then girlfriend and now wife, took a leave from school to care for him. So, Sergio was relieved when he learned that Lazarex Cancer Foundation could help with these travel costs, which they did for about 6 months. 

“We most definitely needed financial help,” Sergio says. “It took a lot of the burden off trying to afford the apartment. It may not have taken care of all costs, but it certainly provided peace of mind knowing that my family was close, and I had somewhere to go when I was not in the hospital.”

“We had no relatives or friends that we could stay with while my son was requiring treatment at MD Anderson,” Sergio’s dad Abel Siller Jr adds. “We are grateful to God and Lazarex for allowing us to be close to our son during that time. I will never forget what this organization did to relieve the stress of figuring out where my family would lay our head while being close to our son.”

One year after he arrived in Houston – Sergio went home – on the 4th of July 2017. Seven years later, he remains in remission and says he’s feeling good. To this day, he mentions Lazarex to anyone he meets fighting their own challenging cancer journey. 

“Lazarex does an amazing job at spreading awareness and assisting through your journey,” Sergio says. “They were there for me, and to this day I still tell a lot of people, they helped me so maybe they can help you too.”

Notes:

There are many important things to consider as a young adult preparing to undergo cancer treatment. Things like fertility, body changes, potential side effects and having a support network. Learn more here.

If you are a young adult navigating cancer you can learn more about the common issues and how to manage them here.

Sergio & Iris 2 photos side by side, with masks on outside at night, and at their wedding.