She does not remember going through chemotherapy, but her days, weeks and months in a hospital helped shape Kai Ramos into who she is and will become.
Ramos hopes to serve as an inspiration to other cancer survivors.
Ramos, a senior point guard for the Reno (Nev.) High School girls basketball team, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was 15 months old.
She spent much of her young life in the hospital, as the slightest illness could have been devastating.
One time, the family dog pulled the catheter out of her chest, which resulted in an infection and a two-month stay in the hospital.
Ramos, who will turn 18 in April, has two older sisters and a younger brother. She was first diagnosed with leukemia in 2002.
In those days after 9/11, her father was called to active duty with his Marine Reserves unit in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving her mother Cobbie Coriz to take care of the family by herself in Klamath Falls, Oregon.
Cobbie said communication with her husband, Eric, was difficult when he was deployed and she sometimes went six months without hearing from him.
Cobbie found out Kai was sick when she was 15 months old, as her young daughter stopped eating. She took her to a pediatrician, who tried to draw blood from Kai, but her blood clotted immediately.
The pediatrician thought something was wrong with the machine and tried again, but got the same result.
Cobbie took her to the hospital and, at first, doctors suspected she might have spinal meningitis. They quickly quarantined her.
A test revealed Kai had only 1,500 white blood cells, most people have 300,000, so her immune system was not able to fight off infections or illness.
“It was pretty tough, but I got through it,” Cobbie Coriz said. “Kai would be sick for three weeks at a time. She would come home for a week and then get an infection and end up back in the hospital for three weeks. My mom had to stay with my three other kids.”
When Kai turns 18, she will be done with Dornbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, where she was treated with potent chemotherapy. Although she has been cleared for almost 13 years, she will have to continue to be monitored and checked for cancer as an adult.
Kai has received a few offers from college basketball coaches, but will wait until the spring to decide where she will go to school.
She plans to study pre-med, with an emphasis on pediatrics or oncology, as a result of her experience with cancer.