Patrick Vixamar has always been willing to help others with their problems.
The 17-year-old often volunteered to help in the main office at North Miami Beach High and was involved in several clubs and organizations, including the school’s Future Business Leaders of America and Academy of Finance chapters.
“I’m kind of like the big help at school, I’m always volunteering,” Patrick said.
But in the middle of his sophomore year in 2014, a problem of his own — a nagging pain in his right leg — led to a hospital visit and ultimately a cancer diagnosis.
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After an MRI at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood revealed a tumor on his leg, Patrick was diagnosed with metastatic osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that affects cells in the bones and can spread to the lungs.
That leg was partially amputated in May, and now Patrick gets around on crutches.
He now takes virtual school courses and does his best to remain positive and keep the same spirit that made him want to help so many people at his old school.
Patrick said he thinks he gets his considerate spirit from his mother, Vesta, who died from breast cancer when he was 9 years old.
“She was very outgoing, she loved to dance, she loved to shop,” Patrick said. “She was very, very strong. Even when she wasn’t feeling well she always put in the effort for us.”
After finding out that he was also going to have to undergo chemotherapy, Patrick said it helped him understand what his mother went through, but it also led to depressive thoughts. He worried about leaving his family behind.
“I had trouble sleeping at night. I kept thinking, every time I sleep I’m going to die,” Patrick said. “Every time I thought about my cancer, I started thinking about my mom.”
He said his stepmother, Armelle Vixamar, and his father, Jean, were key in helping him stay positive despite the pain and emotions he felt.
“I realized that being depressed is not going to make me feel better. I can’t be constantly sad and moody,” Patrick said.
He delivered that same message of positivity in a YouTube video for the hospital in June. Doctors said that Patrick’s spirit was a great asset during his treatment.
“He was the best kind of patient — he was very expressive and he told us his feelings,” said Dr. Lynn Meister, medical director of pediatric palliative care at Joe DiMaggio.
It took about six weeks for Patrick to recover from the amputation. On the day of the procedure, as with most things, he thought of the positive outcome of the surgery.
“If it was something that could save my life, I thought it was the best approach,” Patrick said.
I realized that being depressed is not going to make me feel better. I can’t be constantly sad and moody.
He also had two surgeries in July and September to remove tumors on his lungs. His goal now is to continue working toward his future. He said he’s done with chemotherapy and is now learning to walk with his prosthesis so he can eventually return to public school.
“When I wasn’t feeling well from the chemotherapy, I didn’t practice,” Patrick said. “It’s like a baby learning to walk — they stop and then they fall and then they keep going.”
Until then, he continues to take his virtual school courses and wishes for a MacBook, iPhone and iPad and phone to assist with completing his coursework. Students in his class call in and speak with a teacher through a teleclass system and he thinks the iPhone will help him connect better while the MacBook and iPad will help him multitask. He said the tools will also be useful if he has another long stay in the hospital.
“It was important to Patrick to keep his life as normal as possible,” Meister said. “He was always keeping up with his schoolwork in the hospital.”
Patrick hopes to eventually go on to college and study business and medicine because he enjoys both disciplines. His dream schools include Florida International University, University of Florida, University of South Florida and Johnson & Wales University.
And he plans to continue to draw strength from family and friends to keep him focused on his goals, just as he has tried to help so many people over the years.
“I’m learning to live with what I have, and people giving me encouragement is going to keep me going,” Patrick said.
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