MHS student Lexi Shaw perseveres in fight against rare type of cancer

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MHS student Lexi Shaw perseveres in fight against rare type of cancer

Michael Riggi, Editor-In-Chief

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The toughest of people are the ones who are able to put on a smile for others during the most challenging of times. MHS sophomore Alexis Shaw is a shining example of this as she has kept a courageous mindset and bright outlook on life during the battle of a lifetime against a rare type of cancer.

Life forever changed for Alexis, nicknamed Lexi, and her whole family last May when she was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma at just fourteen years old. Ewing’s sarcoma, typically found in people ages 10 to 20 years old, is an extremely rare type of cancerous tumor that grows in bones or the soft tissue around them. There are fewer than 1,000 cases of this cancer in the U.S. every year.  

After experiencing discomfort for a few days, Lexi and her family went to the doctor and discovered that she had a tumor on her kidney. Lexi’s quick notification of the situation to her parents fortunately allowed medical specialists to recognize the mass early on and stop internal bleeding, which in turn helped save her life.

Soon thereafter, Lexi underwent a surgery in which a portion of her left kidney was removed. Following the surgery and a quick biopsy, it appeared that Lexi had Wilms tumor, but after a week of waiting for the final pathology report it was confirmed that she had Ewing’s sarcoma, which typically isn’t found in the kidney.

Following the news, Lexi immediately endured another surgery lasting over four hours, which removed the remainder of her kidney and placed a port in her chest to begin chemotherapy treatments. From here on out, Lexi’s life was altered significantly as she had to readjust her daily habits in a battle against Ewing’s sarcoma.

In order to triumph over the cancer, Lexi needs to undergo ten months of chemotherapy and miss her entire sophomore year of school. Chemo treatment has a large physical impact on her, causing Lexi’s mother Debbie Shaw to leave her job.

One of the side effects of the chemo treatment that would prove particularly impactful for Lexi was the loss of her hair. “I think the most challenging part of this whole journey was first finding out I was going to lose my hair because [as a girl] it’s a super scary thing,” Lexi said.

A typical day for Lexi now includes waking up at six o’clock in the morning to travel to Cohen’s Children Hospital in Queens, going through eight hours of intense chemo treatment, and returning home to work on school assignments with tutors through home instruction.  

Chemotherapy for Lexi alternates on a three week schedule: the first week she attends five days of chemo, the second week she attends two days, and then she has a break for a week before the cycle repeats. During the two days of chemotherapy in particular, the process takes an immense toll on Lexi, as she can be in the hospital receiving large doses of medication for hours on end.

Despite the intense physical tolls that chemo treatment has left behind, Lexi still keeps a very optimistic mindset regarding the future and brightens the day of those around her.

With help from her friends and family, Lexi has also been able to continue to keep an active social life on top of treatments and schoolwork. Lexi has even had the chance to take a day trip into Manhattan and visit her friends at lunch during the beginning of the school year.  

“It’s definitely harder to juggle school work and my social life during treatment, but they are both so important to me so I always make sure I can balance all of it” Lexi said. “My friends have been super supportive during this whole process and I’m so lucky to have people like them in my life.”

Since Lexi was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma back in May, the Massapequa community has reached out their support to the entire Shaw family through contributions in person and over social media platforms such as GoFundMe. Through GoFundMe alone, nearly $65,000 has been raised collectively for Lexi so far.     

Various fundraising events have also been held for Lexi’s family to help support their medical bills at locations such as Gino’s Pizzeria in Massapequa and the Town of Oyster Bay Ice Skating Center in Bethpage. Lexi’s friends and family are also continuing to sell #teamlexi and #lexistrong bracelets in support for her treatment in school and across town.

“I’m honestly shocked about how supportive everyone has been to me and my family,” Lexi said. “Between the fundraisers and Instagram posts sharing the word about my story, it has all been so heartwarming.”

Word about Lexi and ongoing support for her during her battle with cancer has even been spread beyond the Massapequa community. A tweet about Lexi from her older sister Kristina, a sophomore at The College at Brockport, has since received over 81,000 retweets and nearly 207,000 likes.

Kristina’s tweet even gained attention from famous singer Halsey, who showed full support for Lexi and her family and invited her to one of her shows. “Bald is beautiful,” Halsey said. “And she is most certainly a shining example of that.”

After nearly six months of chemotherapy thus far, Lexi is excited for the future after her treatment ends in April, and to return to MHS for her junior year of high school. Lexi is also looking forward to upcoming trips to Jamaica and a cruise with her friends and family in the beginning of this summer. Later in the summer she will also travel to Hawaii through the help of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.     

“The main thing that keeps me motivated is knowing this will all be over in April and that I can put this behind me,” Lexi said.

Lexi and her family are continuing to sell #teamlexi bracelets and plan to host more fundraisers in the local community. Anyone can get involved in showing their support for the Shaw family whether it be over the internet or at future fundraisers.

Beyond high school Lexi would like to pursue a career in nursing so she can help other kids struggling through the same type of process she is currently going through.

“For kids going through a similar process my advice is that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel,” Lexi said. “Even if you think something is too hard to handle, you can always get through it. As long as you believe it will get better, it will.”

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