Alexandra Savage was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was 8. Despite her medical challenges and cognitive difficulties as a result of radiation, Alexandra was determined to not fall behind in school.
Student with brain cancer never gave up on school 
July 15, 2019
It was the news every parent dreads. In March 2016, doctors diagnosed Lisa Marston-Savage’s 8-year-old daughter, Alexandra, with medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer. “I just remember the words ringing in my head,” Marston-Savage said. “I could barely even process what she was saying.” Alexandra was set to start fourth grade at Condit Elementary when doctors delivered the devastating news. “When he told her she would have to miss the first day of school, that she wouldn’t be able to go to school for the year of treatment, that’s when she started to cry,” Marston-Savage said. “So I think that’s when it set in how much her life was going to change.” Alexandra underwent a grueling treatment regimen. First, doctors performed surgery to remove the brain tumor. That was followed by six weeks of radiation and 10 months of chemotherapy. “Other kids, they don’t know what I’ve gone through,” Alexandra said. “I have special accommodations. Because of the radiation, it destroyed some of my brain cells. Not only the cancerous ones but also the good ones. No one understands it until they’ve been through it.” No one would have faulted Alexandra had she taken a year off from school. But she never viewed that as an option. “I really wanted to keep up with my generation, my grade,” she said. “I didn’t want to have to fall back a year because those weren’t my friends. They weren’t people I knew.” She took online courses through Claremont Unified School District to keep up with her classmates. And by April 2017, just 13 months after the initial diagnosis, Alexandra was back with her friends at Condit Elementary. “I worked so hard,” she said. “The doctors were like, ‘Are you sure you want to go back to school so soon? It’s too soon.’” That’s not to say things were easy. Alexandra struggled with the long-term effects of the radiation, including cognitive challenges that required extra time in the classroom. But that never stopped her. “It was, ‘OK. Give me an assignment. What do I have to do?’” Condit Elementary teacher Jenny Genovese said. “If she felt like she was falling behind in any way, she would work double time to get it done.” It’s been more than three years since Alexandra’s life changed forever. Now she is in remission and on her way to middle school.  “Alex is truly a success story in more ways than one,” Condit Elementary Principal Christine Malally said. “Clearly overcoming this hurdle with all the things that she’s been through. But just watching her grow as a young lady and seeing her have that sense of pride in that she’s doing this. She’s doing this on her own.”

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