PEMBROKE PINES, FL – A South Florida teacher has formed a special bond with a student who has stood up to cancer.
“She’s my hero, that’s an automatic,” Chad Schilling says about his student Ciani Jerez. “She’ll always be my hero.”
Schilling got into teaching to make an impression on young people. He had no idea one of his students, Ciani, would make such a powerful impression on him.
“She’s an amazing person,” Schilling says. “One day if I have a daughter, I hope she turns out half of what Ciani is and I’ll know I have a great daughter.”
Ciani is a straight-A student and tenth in her class at Flanagan High despite missing much of tenth and eleventh grade after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She underwent chemo and radiation therapy, unable to attend class for months and forced to take online classes.
“It was difficult because I missed hanging out with my friends and I didn’t get to see them and getting up in the morning and going to school I missed that so it was really difficult,” Ciani recalls.
Schilling remembers the day Ciani told him she had cancer.
“She said, ‘Hey, Mr. Schilling, I think I have cancer,’” he recalled. “I sat back and took a breath and that’s when I realized she knew she had cancer for a while before she told me.”
During the time Ciani was in treatment, Schilling helped organize fundraisers for Ciani and her family as she went through a roller coaster of emotions.
“Somedays I felt like such a fighter, nothing could stop me, other days I would get really upset,” she said. “Of course, Mr. Schilling helped me a lot probably more than anyone and my mom helped me she stayed strong for me so I could be strong for her too.”
Throughout her cancer fight, Ciani’s strength and demeanor left a lasting impression on her favorite teacher.
“In her college essay she wrote that she is invincible and she truly is she is invincible,” Schilling said.
Ciani will graduate from Flanagan in a few weeks. She plans to take the summer off and then begin college, where she plans to study nursing. Her dream is to work in an oncology unit helping teenage cancer patients.