Young heroes: Cancer patients not victims

HARLINGEN — Norman Torres seemed electrified with energy as he moved around quickly with his fellow Harlingen High School cheerleaders.

Norman, 17, and the other cheerleaders were celebrating Bird Bowl XXIV on Friday night. The football game between Harlingen High School and Harlingen High School South is held each year. The game at Boggus Stadium welcomes the new football season.

What isn’t welcome each year is a cancer diagnosis. Friday night, no one would imagine Norman had a cancer scare earlier this year. Friday night, however, he didn’t seem scared at all.

“I know that God has a heart,” he said between cheers. “Everything happens for a reason. In the end, I will be alright.”

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month has been observed for several years across the United States. The Harlingen school district has now determined it would observe the importance of childhood cancer.

“The HCISD Board of Trustees hereby proclaims Childhood Cancer Awareness Month throughout this district,” read a proclamation at the Sept. 13 board meeting.

School board members and administrators are now wearing gold ribbons, the symbol of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Friday night, football players wore yellow socks, administrators and teachers wore gold ribbons, and gold tinsel hung on the fence.

Superintendent Art Cavazos also wore a gold ribbon.

“We want every student to have a great experience in our district but we have to be mindful that some of our HCISD family are battling cancer,” he said. “We need to come together to rally around our students battling this difficult disease.”

They were definitely rallying their students. Bands from both high schools came together on the field and played, “I want to hold your hand.”

One of those band members, Anika Alvarez, is also battling cancer.

“It makes me feel good because people do care,” said Anika, 16, who plays baritone sax for the Harlingen High School band.

“I don’t know what I would do without the school helping me with everything,” she said.

She’s nervously planning to see the doctor Thursday. She said she appreciates the support from her church family. She also has support from her band family.

“I look at it like it’s a test,” she said. “The baris (baritone sax players) really help me a lot. They just support me and tell me I am good. They just keep me confident.”