Words: Kerry Justich
A teenager from Texas, USA, received her secondaryÂ school diploma during an early graduation ceremony, after she found out that her cancer had spread and decided to not follow through with more treatment.
Crystal â€œIrisâ€ Marquez was diagnosed with Ewingâ€™s sarcoma (a type of cancer that forms in or around bones) in her shoulder back in April 2015. She went through a year of chemotherapy and was told that she was cancer-free. But just six months after completing treatment, a doctor informed the 17-year-old that the cancer had spread.
â€œRecently, I was diagnosed with a tumour on my lung,â€Â Marquez toldÂ KPRC. â€œWhen I went back for a checkup, they saw on my rib cage I also had a tumour.â€
Despite the troubling prognosis, Marquez wasnâ€™t ready to give up on her dreams, and told her family that she wouldnâ€™t be missing school, nor would she be going through with treatment. Instead, she expressed a final wish to graduate high school. Luckily, the district was behind her in making that happen.
â€œWe knew we had to make the year special for her as we didnâ€™t know what time she would have left,â€ Taylor High School PrincipalÂ Mary WilliamsÂ tells Yahoo Lifestyle. â€œWe started planning for a graduation for her to be held on Senior Awards night (23 April 2019) and that we would also make sure she had a great prom with her class on 4 May 2019.â€
But following an update on how aggressive Marquezâ€™s cancer had become, Williams says that they moved the graduation to March 8. On that Friday,Â Alief Independent School District brought administrators, classmates and Marquezâ€™s family and friends together to fill the auditoriumâ€™s 900 seats and honour Marquez in an earlyÂ ceremony.
â€œThis school is a wonderful community! The staff members all became vested in making this a wonderful experience,â€ Williams explains. â€œA make-up artist came and did her make-up for graduation day. A staff member donated a new wig for her.â€
Feeling confident, Marquez stood at the podium andÂ gave a speechÂ in front of administrators, friends and family, addressing her hardships and her drive to overcome them.
â€œI am a Disney girl. I have battled pirates, dragons and evil queens. I have dreamed impossible dreams,â€ Marquez said in her speech. â€œSeniors, there will be times when there are things that are out of your control. Donâ€™t let it harden your heart. Donâ€™t let it define who you are.â€
According to Williams, Marquez certainly hasnâ€™t let her illness define her.
â€œIris, even in pain attended school most days. She is a very bright child. She loves school and she loves learning,â€ Williams says. â€œAll she wanted was to achieve these two milestones and to enjoy her senior year. It didnâ€™t seem like a lot to ask. We could make that happen for her.â€
Marquez didnâ€™t immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyleâ€™s request for comment. However, she explained to KPRC just how much the support of her classmates means to her.
â€œIt makes me feel like I matter and it motivates me to keep pushing on,â€ she said.
And in her speech, she made just one request of those supporting her.
â€œThere is one thing that I can ask for you,â€ she shared, â€œand that is to reach for the sky, to infinite and beyond.â€