RANTOUL, Ill., (WCIA) — It’s not fair when anyone has to fight for their life, especially when they’re battling a deadly disease like cancer. But, it pulls at your heartstrings a little more when it’s a kid.
Jera Sotero was a happy and busy 12-year-old living life to the fullest. One day she said she couldn’t lie down without breathing problems.
“I would wake up every 30 minutes with water dripping down my nose,” she described. “Just out of breath. Like I ran a marathon.”
At first, Sotero’s doctors thought it was something simple. They kept giving her allergy medicine, but Sotero said it wasn’t working. After more time and tests, her parents got the news no one wants to hear.
“The doctors said it’s cancer. I’m shaking. I’m shaking really hard and I cried a lot,” Era Sotero, Jera’s mom, said.
Doctors did a biopsy and discovered it was a mass making breathing difficult.
A few weeks later, results came in. It was T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. When the parents told Sotero, she was in shock.
That was just the beginning. Two months into treatment, she got a blood clot in the PICC line she had in her arm. It almost killed her.
“That basically turned my treatment in a whole new other direction,” Sotero said. “The lymphoma turned into leukemia.”
She missed out on 8th grade and was barely at Rantoul Township High School for her freshman year. Sotero said the chemo impacted her knees, and could barely walk.
She really wanted to go to school, and the teachers wanted to help her. They brought presents to her front door on her birthday.
“It’s really hard for her and for us but Rantoul Schools, made this kind of situation really easy,” Julius Sotero, Jera’s dad, said. “I really appreciate what they did to my daughter and for us as a family.”
For example, teachers made cushions for her seats in the classroom. Sotero said it hurt to sit for a long time.
After three and a half years in and out of hospitals, she’s now cancer free and graduating.
“I felt so free,” Sotero said. “I just keep thinking about being okay and I’m like, I really went through that.”
Now, Era Sotero said life feels much more normal for the family.
Sotero still goes to appointments every couple of months for check-ins. As for the next plans, she’ll be studying at Parkland College. She wants to study acting and psychology and hopefully transfer to EIU or U of I in the future.