While her high school classmates were thinking about prom, college applications and graduation, Bianca Maderal was fighting for her life.
At the beginning of her senior year, Maderal was having a conversation with a friend at the end of Spanish class when she suddenly had a seizure. She was rushed to the hospital where she spent two weeks undergoing so many medical procedures she lost count.
Doctors performed a craniotomy biopsy. It left her with a 7-inch scar on the right side of her head and a dreaded diagnosis — cancer. Barely 18-years-old, Maderal was diagnosed with stage three brain cancer. The rare and aggressive cancer is usually found in 30 to 50-year-olds. Doctors found eight star-shaped tumors that were trying to end her life. Doctors told her parents she had six months to live. Maderal had different plans. It’s cancer’s turn to be afraid, she told herself.
That was the beginning of a long and strenuous road for Maderal and her family. The effect and shift in lifestyle took a toll on her friendships.
“I threw my phone in a bag and hid it in the closet. It was overwhelming,” she said.
In search for the best treatment, Maderal and her parents went on a road trip throughout the country from Miami to Texas, Boston and finally Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. She underwent eight weeks of treatment, facing the unknown in an unknown city. Her mother did all she could to make her smile — shopping, walking around the town and trying to distract her anyway she thought she could.
Maderal ended up finding her own distraction.
She started Fight Like A Kid, a nonprofit organization to help children find hope while battling cancer. She provides hospital visits, care packages, organizes toy drives and hosts holiday events. As a cancer ambassador in partnership with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, she has brought her vision of Fight Like A Kid to life.
The humanitarian / cancer patient also found a way to pursue her hopes of a college education. She enrolled at FIU, studying psychology on a pre-med track with a long-term goal of becoming a pediatric oncologist.
“The doctors told me not to go to school, but I didn’t care. I had to,” she said.
Her family was supportive, but seeing her go to school in a mask scared them. The mask served as a reminder of Maderal’s compromised immune system. She did it anyway. It gave her a sense of normalcy.
Maderal has had many ups and downs throughout the past four years but hasn’t given up on herself or the kids. Today, seven of the eight tumors are gone and she is on the journey to fight that last star.
“I was assigned this mountain to show others that it can be moved,” Maderal said.
Maderal graduated from FIU on Dec. 15 with a bachelor's degree in psychology. She is a member of Psi Chi, Phi Beta Kappa and the Golden Key Honor Society. After graduation, she wants to attend FIU’s new program in natural and applied sciences and dreams of becoming a pediatric oncologist to help children battling cancer. She also wants to continue her work with Fight Like A Kid.