Surviving Cancer and Adapting to a New Lifestyle

Natalie Bonilla, Senior:

What do you like about school?

“I like my classes and my teachers. I like that I get to see my friends every day. My favorite class right now is APES with Ms. Jackson. She is a great teacher. She is fun and I learn easily, she just makes everything better. That’s my favorite part of the day.”

What has been the happiest moment of your life?

When my twin siblings were born. That’s the happiest I have felt in a while. When I was little, I never realized how much beauty babies bring to the world. I was about eleven years old when they were born, it was a big moment for me. I was excited for having twin siblings and I think that’s really cool.”

What has been the saddest moment of your life?

“ I am a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed at the age of 4. I went through chemotherapy and everything. Now I am fine, but last year I had to get another surgery. That affected me a lot. I was in a lot of pain for a while. Going through that again caught the memories and fears that I had when I was little. I have a lot of pictures of it and it’s just something that has always been with me.”

How did your perspective of life change since that happened?

“It is something out of the blue because I didn’t expect it. It was something that wasn’t really probable of happening again. I didn’t really worry about it and then all of a sudden it came back and it makes you think that every day is something you need to look forward to. You never know when something can actually go wrong, and it made me see every day as an opportunity I get to be a better person .”


How did you push through it as a junior in high school?

“I missed an entire month of school because I was really sick from the surgery and I had a lot of complications. It was hard but I had a lot of good friends that came to my house and brought me homework. I talked to the teachers, I even came to school one day to talk to everyone about what was happening. Venice was a really supportive school for me to push me through and help me get through everything. I even applied for the study abroad program during that time when I was at home feeling really sick but I said ‘I have to do this now, because I might not get a chance later on.’

What advice would you give to other students?

“ Just keep going, you only get one life. Live it to the fullest. You never know when something can happen. If you get an opportunity to do something,  take advantage of it, and help the community as well.”


Kaveh Vahdat, Senior

  When did you move here?

“I moved here a year and a half ago. Iran at that moment was in a bad situation and today in an even worse one. I wanted to come here. My parents wanted me to come here to have a better future. In Iran, my future was really bleak and I had one line to follow, while here I could go through anything that I wanted. And do anything that I wanted. So I came here a year and a half ago for academic and life reasons.

The plane ride was 16 hours. It’s a long time to think about it. At first I was like ‘yeah I’m going to America.’ Halfway through, I started thinking. I’m leaving a lot behind. I’m leaving my parents. I’m leaving my friends, my school, back there. 

My mind said ‘okay you know you’re going to America, you’re going to have fun.’ And then the other side of my brain reminded me that my parents have put so much on the line. You’re going there, you have to be successful. You got to put in everything you got, even if it’s not for you, for them. All the pain they went through to get you here. 

And that was the moment that I thought the best thing to do is to balance it out. That doesn’t mean you go into 9th grade, jump in and say I’m going to have fun and forget about the other classes. Know when you go there, you have to do that, but at the same time take advantage of everything that you have in school.

You guys have a lot of things that we didn’t have in our high school. You guys have theater programs, sports programs, everything that we didn’t have. So when I see some kids that just throw everything away, it saddens me because they’re not using the school system to its full potential.”


“So you came here alone? How has that affected you?

“Yes, it was just me. My grandparents and my mom’s family have been here. I’m living with them at the moment. My parents stayed back. I miss them. We still keep in regular contact almost every day. We call at certain times for the time zone changes and we talk. I update them.

 The only person that I’ve seen since that is my mom. She has her green card, but my dad doesn’t. I haven’t seen him face to face since I left. That had a big impact on my life, not having my parents. It really emotionally hurt me. I knew it wasn’t their fault at all. It really hurt me when I was in my first play and I didn’t see them in the audience. None of my family was there.  I was alone. I was depressed because I felt alone. I had no friends that I was close to and that I could go around with. My parents could send me all the money they had, but at the end of the day, I didn’t have anything to do with it. I could go anywhere, but I’d be alone.

Then I started opening up. After a long talk with my mom. I said ‘you know what? I’m going to stop lying to myself that no one cares about me. I’m going to start making friends, and then I opened up a bit more, opening up to the idea that all of us are human. Everyone has a background.  I see so many teachers that are old. When they go ramble off, some kids find it annoying, but I find that awesome, because I hear someone else’s experience from the past or present. And that’s just what really took over me. During the years of being here it’s really opened me to other people.”


“What has been your happiest moment in the States?” 

My happiest moment being here was when I got my job a month ago. I’ve been trying to get a job for seven months. I was unsuccessful because of something on my part. That day I went for the interview, came home and I thought ‘yeah that’s going to be a no.’ Then one hour after the interview, they called me and said ‘you’re hired.’ I was just thinking ‘Awesome. I did it. I finally went to adulthood.’ After that, I felt more like an adult. So I would say to anyone that’s young, even if you’re loaded with money, the best thing is to get a job, it just makes you feel like an adult, like you’re contributing something. That you can stand on your own.


Happiest moment in Iran?”

That’s a tricky one because I have a lot of happy memories there. I would say the one that always comes to mind was the first day that I got my cat.  When I was there, I went through problems because of the horrible school system we had. That threw me into depressing times. I was suicidal due to school problems. But I will say my cat was the biggest comfort to me. She knew, she understood when I was sad and she would be around me all the time. And I would say the first day I got her was awesome because you know I came, I saw her and I Lion King-style grabbed and picked her up. She’s five years old now. So I’ve had five years of good memories with her.


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