Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

For MTI Class, Walk Is Personal

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

For MTI Class, Walk Is Personal

Article excerpt

RELAY FOR LIFE: Student gets diagnosis of cancer as the event approaches

MANATEE COUNTY -- When Denise Walker talked in August with her students about participating in Relay for Life, it was just a community service project.

That all changed on March 24, when Crystal Robles, 18, was found to have cancer.

"If it didn't mean enough already, it does now," said Walker, a patient care instructor at Manatee Technical Institute. "We've all been affected by cancer in some way, but this is my first student."

Robles, a senior at Bayshore High School, began noticing impaired hearing in September. Doctors prescribed antibiotics for what appeared to be an ear infection. Later, she was sent to a specialist who drained the liquid from her ear. In December, Robles noticed a mass on her neck.

She went through numerous tests, and a biopsy of the mass confirmed it was cancer. The diagnosis was nothing new to the Robles family; her mother is an 18-year cancer survivor.

"When I was diagnosed that day, my whole family was there," Robles said. "I started crying because my mom started crying."

Robles has become the mascot for Team MTI-PCT 1, whose members are making shirts that read, "We walk for Crystal." Robles will walk the caregiver and survivor laps for her mother at this weekend's Relay for Life in Bradenton.

"To see the support they give me keeps me going," Robles said. "I see what I have in life. Many people love me. It's the little things."

Walker has promised to provide in-home instruction for Robles. Classmate Samantha Thomas, who attends Lakewood Ranch High School, cut her hair with Robles on Thursday afternoon for Locks of Love.

"I've wanted to do it for years, but I never had someone to do it for until now," Thomas said.

Robles, who had surgery Wednesday to insert a portacath for chemotherapy administration, begins treatment Monday. …

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