Two AHS students battle cancer in high school

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

Aurora -- Kyle Sutton and senior class salutatorian Ryan Sharafuddin, who both graduated from Aurora High School in the spring, each experienced the horror of having cancer while in high school.

Kyle suffered from acute myeloid leukemia, while Ryan had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Both are currently cancer free.

Kyle Sutton

He was hospitalized with cancer for the first time for about six months as a freshman from spring to fall 2011. The disease returned about one year later -- in the spring at the end of his sophomore year in 2012 -- and he had a bone marrow transplant from his twin brother, Scott.

The cancer has been in remission for two years since the transplant.

Kyle said when a bone marrow transplant occurs, "you have no ability to fight any disease or infection. I was fed through a tube, and I was very sick. It was a month before I was able to leave the hospital."

With AML leukemia, a cancer of the blood, Kyle was low on white blood cells, which meant if he got a cut, it wouldn't stop bleeding as quickly as it should have, and he couldn't fight infections as well.

"As a senior, I was not concerned about getting a cut on my body," he said. "My body was normal. It was just my immune system that had to catch up. I had to get my baby shots again, and I had to be careful."

Kyle was home-schooled online as a junior. "I couldn't go into crowds," he said. "If I caught a cold, it could be life-threatening."

As a senior, Kyle returned to AHS on a regular basis.

"It was like going back to normalcy," he said. "I hadn't really gone out in public or gone outside a lot. I had to transition back into society. I had missed going outside and being with friends. I was able to return to playing soccer."

Kyle recovered with the support of his parents, Ben and Cathy Sutton, and his twin brother, Scott.

Kyle said his advice for someone in his position would be to "just accept it and move on. The worst thing you could do is stay in that moment and feel sorry for yourself. It sounds harsh to say, but you have to toughen up and move on. That's the only way you'll get past it."

Ryan Sharafuddin

The senior class salutatorian with a 4.404 grade-point average learned he had cancer after he fell while climbing a ladder, breaking his left leg when he was a sophomore.

"A few months later, my leg was still hurting in the same place where I broke it," he said.

An MRI scan showed a cancerous tumor in March 2012. "It was pretty scary," he said, adding chemotherapy treatments began, and he missed a lot of school during the remainder of his sophomore year.

"I would be in the hospital in cycles -- in for one week, and out for two weeks," he said. "It was like that for much of the summer and through August."

Ryan had radiation treatment in October 2012, and doctors advised him not to run cross country. But his recovery began to take place, and he has been in remission since the fall of 2012. "Things slowly started returning to normal," he said.

Ryan even got to run cross country again as a senior after competing as a sophomore.

"That was gratifying for me," he said. "It was fun, and it was a symbol that I was getting back to normal. It seemed like the time went really slowly when I went through all that -- especially all the weeks in the hospital."

Ryan, an only child, said his mom and dad -- Hazera Rahman and Ahsan Sharafuddin -- were extremely supportive.

"Also, something that really helped me in the hosptial was, my friends would come and visit frequently and that took my mind off things," he said. "It was a blessing in disguise that I broke my leg. If I hadn't done that, I probably wouldn't have known about the cancer."

Ryan's advice for someone in his position is, "You have to believe there will be an end to all of that somewhere, even if you can't see it. Not knowing when treatment will end, it messes with your mind. It makes it seem like it will go on indefinitely."

Ryan, 18, played trumpet in band as a freshman, and was a member of the quiz bowl and science olympiad. His favorite subject in school was calculus.

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