Auger and Auger are proud to announce that Hugo Concha has been awarded the Disabled Scholar Award, worth $1,000. At the age of 6, Hugo was diagnosed with papillary carcinoma of the thyroid. He had to undergo a 13-hour surgery to remove his thyroid and part of the tumor. In addition to the surgery, he was given radioactive iodine to take care of the cancer; in order to take all of the cancer out surgically, he would have had to undergo a tracheotomy. For a time after that surgery, he lost his ability to speak. However, with the iodine, Hugo was able to beat the cancer and continue on his life as normal — or at least he thought.
When Hugo turned 16, he was diagnosed with cancer again, this time acute lymphoblastic leukemia. While the leukemia may or may not have been caused by the iodine treatment from his childhood, one thing was certain: he would need extensive radiation and chemotherapy in order to defeat it. The new, more aggressive treatment was ongoing for three years. During that time, Hugo was bedridden for over 8 months. Being bedridden caused his muscles to atrophy, requiring therapy in order for him to walk normally again.
Even now, after his therapy is complete, the cancer and its subsequent treatments have made it all but impossible for Hugo to run or even walk quickly. In addition, the chemotherapy affected his heart, compromising it in such a way that he is unable to lift more than 50 pounds. Hugo is 24 years old now, and starting at age 30, he will require screenings at least once a decade to ensure the cancer hasn’t returned and his body is functioning properly. Though the cancer is unlikely to come back, if it does, it will be more aggressive than ever.
After facing more difficulties before he had a driver’s license than most people face in a lifetime, Hugo has chosen to take his experiences and use them to help others. He is planning to go to Cornell Medical School to earn a degree in clinical anesthesiology. He chose Cornell due to the impact the university has already had on his life. The surgery when he was 6 was performed at New York–Presbyterian Hospital, which is affiliated with Cornell. In addition, he wants to remain in the city after he gains his medical doctorate to help those in need.
While he was facing his two cancer diagnoses and treatments, his mother and older sister (who is now a doctor) were by his side the whole time. In fact, his sister stopped an antifungal treatment during leukemia treatment because it could have damaged his kidneys. It is for these reasons that his mother and sister are two of the most influential people in his life. However, Hugo is quick to point out that his other sister, his little brother and his father have also played an important role in his life.
While his mother and sister were with him in the hospital, Hugo’s father was home with the other two children, making sure their lives continued as normal. Because of this dedication and his mother’s will to never give up — she came to America and learned how to speak English here — Hugo and his two older sisters have been able to chase their dreams in the medical field. Both of Hugo’s sisters are now health care professionals — one is a doctor and the other a nurse — paving the way for him and his little brother.
When it comes to facing difficulties in his life, Hugo remembers and draws from his fights with cancer. “Ninety percent of the battle is mental,” he says. “Difficulties like cancer can always be used to your advantage and to help you grow as a person. It’s never an easy situation, but there is always a silver lining.”
Hugo encourages those facing cancer or who have recently defeated it to not dwell on the negatives, as easy as it is to do. Rather, look forward, taking each day at a time and living this life to the fullest.