A Valencia High School junior varsity football player has his head shaved in support of Pedro Roman, a teammate diagnosed with leukemia last week. Photo courtesy of Austin Dave.

Valencia student diagnosed with leukemia; teammates shave heads in support

A lot can change in someone’s life after a single doctor’s office visit — 15-year-old Pedro Roman and his family know this all too well.

Last week, after visiting with a number of medical experts regarding his back pain, nausea and other health issues, Roman was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many white blood cells.

Roman, within the last month, had just kicked off his sophomore year at Valencia High School, and was in the midst of his junior varsity season as both a Viking running back and linebacker before he got his diagnosis.

“He’s still in the hospital, weak and tired from chemotherapy,” said Alana Bans-Altmayer, a friend of the family and whose son plays football with Roman. She added that Roman is still unable to have visitors due to his immune system not being able to fight off infection. “(He’s) wishing he was with his friends at school.”

Pedro Roman was starting his second year as a football player at Valencia High School when he received his leukemia diagnosis. Photo courtesy of the Roman family.

Roman, according to Bans-Altmayer, is set to have a long road ahead of him in terms of chemotherapy, doctor visits and recovery, totaling at least three years of treatment.

And in a showing of solidarity with their teammate, who they say they’ve grown up with and played together with for decades, the players of the junior varsity football team and their coach shaved their heads.

“It’s a very tight group,” said JV coach Curt White. “We got the news … and the players, the coaches — we were devastated.”

“It’s very important,” said White, in response to a question about what it means for the players to join in with one another in shaving their heads in support of Roman. “One of our mantras is that it’s not about you, it’s about the guy next to you and we try to instill in them that caring for others, and taking care of your brothers and having each others’ backs. I’ve really seen that to a great extent with this group when it comes to that support they’ve given to their fellow player Pedro.”

“It’s really cold and I didn’t want to do it at all,” said Roman’s teammate Jalen Prieto, after he had shaved his head. “But I had to do it for Pedro … I know he’ll appreciate everyone doing it for him.”

While the players show their support for Roman as they head into this week’s game against Loyola, the community is also gathering around the family.

A Vikings player has his head shaved by another teammate in solidarity with Pedro Roman, a junior varsity player recently diagnosed with leukemia. Photo courtesy of Austin Dave.

Bans-Altmayer, in an effort to help alleviate some of the financial burden on the family, has set up a GoFundMe page in Roman’s name. As of Tuesday, the campaign has raised over $17,000, $7,000 more than its initial goal.

Community members also plan to set up a meal train once Roman is home from the hospital as well, and are looking for people wishing to donate.

“They need to focus on their son and not have any worries,” said Bans-Altmayer. “I’m trying my best to make sure their attention is solely on Pedro and his recovery. I love this boy and it breaks my heart he’s going through this.”

For more information about the GoFundMe page or on how to donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/1r3sk2mwxc.

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