McAllen junior, cancer survivor publishes novel 

He’s Abel

Abel Ramirez, 17, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of cancer when he was 2 years old. He spent six months in a hospital, and was in a coma for one month. (Courtesy photo)

Not only is 17-year-old Abel Ramirez proud to call himself a cancer survivor, but now he also gets to say he’s an author.

The McAllen James “Nikki” Rowe High School junior recently published his first novel, “The Young Killer,” which follows the adventures of a sly murderer who goes by the pseudonym “Tilwood” and targets the town’s worst criminals.

The 64-page chapter book was made available on Amazon earlier this month, and soon will be on shelves at Barnes and Noble.

Abel said his inspiration to start writing a book began with his love for video games with compelling storylines. He considered designing his own video game, but was more interested in writing a story.

“I just got the idea in my head and then just started writing it down,” he said, adding that his best advice for others who also hope to write their own book is to “just start writing.”

Abel said his favorite books are suspenseful, and readers who enjoy thrilling and mysterious books should pick up “The Young Killer.”

Abel Ramirez, a junior at McAllen’s James “Nikki” Rowe High School, recently published his first novel “The Young Killer.” Abel’s mother, Sandy Grimaldo designed the cover of the book. (Courtesy photo)


When Abel told his mom he wanted to write a book, she never questioned whether he could.

Sandy Grimaldo’s son is the most fearless, tenacious person she knows, and he proved it when he was just 2 years old.

Grimaldo said Abel was a very active young boy, but one day in 2005 he stopped walking, complaining about major hip pain. After several tests the toddler was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive type of cancer that’s rare for children to have.

As a 2-year-old, Abel went through seven rounds of chemotherapy which were very stressful for his small body. He spent six months in a hospital — of which one month, he was in a coma, isolated in a small bubble in an intensive care unit.

His condition got so dire that at one point, Grimaldo remembers how crushed she felt when a handful of doctors advised her to bring making arrangements for her son’s funeral.

“That was just so hard to hear because you want your son to fight, you want him to fight,” she said.

It was a tough battle, but time and time again, Abel proved in that small hospital room that he was a fighter.

Chemotherapy made Abel vomit often and become very weak; the survival rate of children his age receiving that kind of treatment is 40%, his mother said. He lost his hair and it was hard for him to talk and laugh like he used to.

Abel Ramirez, 17, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of cancer when he was 2 years old. He spent six months in a hospital, and was in a coma for one month. (Courtesy photo)

At this time, Abel’s family lived in California and he was cared for at Oakland Children’s Hospital, and Grimaldo remembers one traumatic night.

It was right before bedtime and she was laying on the hospital bed with Abel, who was giggling to “Spongebob,” his favorite cartoon show — until he suddenly began gasping for air. He couldn’t breathe and nurses and other professionals began to rush into the room.

Abel’s lungs had collapsed.

“What I saw was the worst thing I could have ever seen,” Grimaldo said through tears.

The next time she would enter the room, Abel was in a coma, and the doctors told her “his lungs were done. They could not handle his immune system and keep him alive anymore.”

For a month after that night, Abel was kept in a small incubator and Grimaldo could not see him without layers of protective equipment. For a month, she was not allowed to hold her son.

But she never lost hope. After one of the most difficult months of Grimaldo’s life, she received a call at 3 a.m. giving her the news she had been praying for: Abel was awake.

She rushed to the hospital to embrace her son. She said since he was in a coma for so long, he was unable to talk or walk, or raise his hands or head.

“It was like you were holding a new baby,” Grimaldo said.

Abel spent the next several months relearning how to do many of the skills toddlers should know how to do, but there was one word he didn’t forget. He was barely able to say it out loud because of the trauma his lungs had gone through, but he managed to repeat it several times that morning he woke up: “Mom.”

Grimaldo was able to take Abel home a week after Mothers Day that year, which she said was “the best Mothers Day gift I could ever had.” Five years later, Abel was declared cancer free.

Their family moved to McAllen the following year. Abel is now the older brother of three sisters, and is a bass clarinet player of Rowe’s band. He spends most of his freetime reading and playing video games, and maintaining his Youtube Channel about gaming.

Abel can’t remember much about having cancer, saying he can only recall the small hospital room and seeing his mother and father from his bed. However, he still feels the long-lasting symptoms of the fight.

Abel only has 60% capacity of his lungs and can not talk for long periods of time. He also struggles with ADHD, OCD, and is slightly autistic.

But these hurdles don’t keep Abel from accomplishing his goals.

He hopes to continue writing books, and already started on a sequel to “The Young Killer.” He also has plans of becoming a professional video gamer some day.

“I am so proud of him because this is a big accomplishment,” Grimaldo said about the release of Abel’s book. “I am a very proud mom.”