Coalinga Learns To Love And Care
By Mary Blyth Jones
On Fathers Day 2019, Hazel and her dad mugged for the camera in a sweet father-daughter photo. The next day, the world turned upside down.
A few weeks before that, Hazel had been rehearsing for a friend’s fifteenth birthday and came home with a very sore back.
“The way we found out she had cancer,” Said Patti Medina, Hazel’s mother, “is one day she went to her friends house to practice for her friends sweet 15 birthday. She came home that day and she felt a pop in her back after a lot of pain!
She cried and cried, so I took her to the doctor. We went back a lot of times. They gave her meds after meds, and also did x-rays but they didn’t know what was going on. She would go to school carrying her back pack and would be in so much pain that I would have to pick her up several times from school.”
“It came to a point that on Father’s Day she couldn’t walk,”continued Patti. “She was a noodle!”
They were supposed to see a specialist but there was a mistake in the communication.
“That day, on Father’s Day, I told her ‘Let’s go to Valley Children’s Hospital Emergency,’ but she didn’t want to ruin her dad’s day. So my brother Jesse and my husband carried her that day. We waited.”
“The next day my brother came early at 6 AM and said ‘Let’s go.’ He carried her to the car. It was so painful for her.
“As soon as we got to VCH, they put her in a room and then it was odd. They moved us rapidly to another room with a glass door!”
The story is a hard one to tell.
“They came in-out and in and pulled blood and then more and more. Finally a surgeon came in and my heart sank.”
“They asked me to come out of the room,” explained Patti. “And they showed me an X-ray and said look at all these tumors. I thought I knew what it was. They said she needed surgery ASAP.”
The doctor told Patti that they were getting a team together at that very moment. It was the next day when Hazel had surgery. The assistant surgeon came out and told the parents that everything came out great, “No worries!”
“But when they brought us back to see my baby,” remembers Patti, “the head surgeon said ‘Did my assistant tell you what he found?”
“I said no,” Patti said, and paused. “She said ‘Sorry sweetheart. We found cancer cells. She has cancer.’ My heart dropped. I cried but tried to hold them back so Hazel wouldn’t see. Her dad hugged me so tight. Then Hazel woke up and asked, ‘Mom, am I ok?’ I said yes baby you are!!
“As time passed I asked for the staff to let me tell Hazel at my own time. But a nurse said it (cancer) loudly and Hazel heard it. I hoped that she didn’t hear it, but I told her then.
“She said, ‘I knew, Mom.'” Patti asked Hazel how she had known, and her daughter explained that before they had come to the hospital, she dreamed that she had cancer.
“I knew a long before you brought me to Valley Children’s,” said Hazel.
Hazel is a Junior this year. The past two years, she has been battling cancer.The last time she wrestled, Hazel was in her Freshman Year. She was on CHS Varsity at the 101 weight class. She did very well, and competed against some hard opponents. She never gave up.
“It was definitely an amazing last year for her,” said Patti. “Covid was not a thing at the time, which we are thankful for. It allowed us to watch her one last time.”
Today, Hazel, is 16, and is a proud Horned Toad at CHS. Her nickname is Hazel Strong which was given to her by her father, Noel, as he watched her wrestled through the years. She wrestled tough. She was relentless on the mat. And she wrestled even when it hurt. Thus, the name.
Her dad chose that because she’s strong willed, fearless and because when before she was diagnosed she was wrestling not knowing that the tumor was eating her spine and even though in some instances she was in pain she kept going so that saying Hazel strong makes us just to see how strong she is that she still wrestled even though the tumor was eating her spine.
When Hazel was younger, she had always been unsure about what sport to join. She has been on the track team, tried out of basketball, tried out for oiler cheer-leading, and was on the cheer team for the school. After what felt like she “had no luck,” she decided to join her younger brother in wrestling.
Hazel started wrestling at first, just to get her little brother interested in the sport. She decided to show him that she could do it too.
After trying out several other sports, she finally found something that felt good to her.
“Coach Dustin Ramsey was so patient with her during her wrestling career,” said Patti Medina, Hazel’s mother. “He did his very best to make her feel at home, motivate her, and show her that winning boys is NOT impossible. He is genuinely the reason she stuck to it.”
When Hazel wrestled, she wrestled for Coalinga Roughnecks for Two Years. Eventually they later left that team and later joined Team Coalinga. Hazel then wrestled with Team Coalinga for five years. She also wrestled one year at Coalinga High School.
Throughout her years of wrestling, she did folk style and freestyle wrestling. “I would say she was good in both,” said Patti, “but most definitely better during the Folk-style season.”
Hazel enjoyed being the middle child in a family of four sisters and one brother.
Coach Josh Cleveland and James “Pooh” Watson were on Team Coalinga which seemed to understand Hazel the best. They worked with her when she wanted to “quit” and convinced her to keep going.
“She has always been easily discouraged,” said Patti. “Except when it comes to her battle with cancer.”
Hazel is a Junior this year. The past two years, she has been battling that cancer. The Distance Learning thing at school is not new to hazel. During her battle with Rhabdomyosarcoma a breast cancer.
Treatments and the illness itself often meant that Hazel had to miss school. She did school at home with a visiting teach, Ms. Sparks.
Patti said, “The worst thing about distance learning is that Hazel is too shy to ask questions. If she has trouble with something or doesn’t know how to do something, she’d rather stay quiet and not do it, to avoid asking question.
“Though, when she was diagnosed with Cancer, she did “home hospital,” where Ms. Sparks would come to our home, explain packets to her, and help her as best she could. Even with home hospital, Hazel still sometimes has trouble. Hazel (like many other teenagers) also has a short attention span so she tends to drift away from class to use the infamous “TikTok” app,” added Patti.
“A positive about distance learning is that Hazel is able it to do school not only at home, but on the drives to the hospital, during our weeks at chemotherapy, and at many of her appointments.”
In an ‘aside,’ Patti added, “I personally love that my family and I get to spend as much time as I can with her, especially through everything she is going through.”
Last Friday, Scott Netherton arranged for a private family showing of “Ponyo,” one of Hazel’s long-time favorite movies. It has been one of her favorite movies since she was a little girl. Hazel loves Anime. Much of the time she has nothing to do since she is always home! So she delves into anime.
She said “I love/prefer Action Anime!”
Though this is not anime, Hazels all time favorite character is Avatar, Appa, and Katra.
She love to draw and paint but does not draw any anime characters. She does love to draw sceneries, and portraits.
Painting is one of the things that Hazel is able to totally sink herself into. She allows herself to become engrossed in the creative process and is happy with the peace and almost blissful feeling she gets.
Hazel’s favorite music genre is Reggae, and her all time favorite singer is Bob Marley. She loves Three Little Birds, Is This Love, and One Love. This music calms her down and makes her feel as peace, so she says.
Her favorite movie actors would have to be Kevin Hart or Tiffany Haddish. Hazel thinks she is H I L A R I O U S and honest.
Hazel’s favorite football team is The Dallas Cowboys. While she was hospitalized, they sent a gift basket with tons of awesome team accessories and gear. She says this is the only team she roots for.
The Dallas Cowboys are the only team because the family used to live in Austin Texas. The Cowboys are her fathers’ favorite team so she just picked it up. She loves her father so much that anything he says, she seems to go with!
“Gym wise, I have not learned anything. For some reason, I do not like to run or anything that has to do with exercise, but I do love to compete.”
Like others who fight for the win, Hazel has discovered the joy of triumph.
When asked who she would most like to meet, living or dead, she answered with a laugh.
“I would love to meet, Noel Medina, my dad,” Hazel laughed. “Just kidding! I would love, love, love, to meet Frida Kahlo or Marilyn Monroe.”
Talking about ordinary things, to see more about who this Hazel is, Hazel was asked what food she would be able to give up if she had to choose one thing.
“I would give up fish. I hate seafood though. I do not eat it. If I had to give up a food I consume already, it would be Nothing. I love food, especially ribs (My Uncle Conrad and Dad make the best ribs).”
It’s good to know Hazel loves eating good food.
“I would like to thank the entire community for standing behind me through this rough journey. It has a been a long soon to be two years, I would not be able to do it alone. I love all the support, special messages, signs, and thoughts/prayers. Although I cannot thank everyone individual (I wish I could), it seems to be almost impossible. I thank everyone for keeping me on my feet, and motivated to keep going.”
Family members include:
Her mother: Patricia Medina
Her father: Noel Medina
Brother: Conrado Medina
Sister(s): Maria Medina
Brothers in Law: Miguel Juarez, Kobe Rosas
Aunts: Josie Guerrero Garcia, Lynette Guerrero, Lisa Kennedy, Lacey Kennedy
Uncles: Conrado Guerrero, Ramon Guerrero, Manuel Garcia
Grandparents: Josefina Guerrero
Great Grandma: Francisca Martinez
Cousins: Marysol Nava, Fabby Garcia, Raymundo Nava, Anthony Jimenez, Bradly & Christian Koep
And an adopted Aunt, Ashley Boomer!
“My best word of advice would be to be fearless when there are harsh challenges thrown at you. Though it is easy to feel hopeless and alone, most of the time you are not. Faith plays a large role when there’s so much going on, especially when it is not your way. Sometimes things feel as if I’m at my lowest or I’m just receiving an endless amount of bad news, but these things are what builds you. Nothing is ever impossible even if it seems like it.”
—Hazel Strong Medina