Battling Bruins: Archive

August 2017 | Lauren

When nominated as a Battling Bruin in 2016, I was fighting cancer and performing the balancing act between being a UCLA undergraduate student and Ronald Reagan patient.

Today, I am cancer-free and living life to the fullest. The moment I finished treatment, I wanted to do anything and everything my body allowed. In the last year, I have backpacked through Japan, white water kayaked with cancer survivors, applied to graduate school and much more! Currently, I am working at Insure the Uninsured Project, a nonprofit that advances creative and workable policy solutions that expand healthcare access and improve the health of Californians...
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May 2017 | Gabriella

So much has happened since 2014. My cancer got a lot worse, and as a result, I lost one of my lungs and my HIV progressed to AIDS. But that hasn't stopped me from living life. I still go to the hospital at least 2-3 times a week and have been going to Cancer Treatment Centers of America. I also do the AIDS Walk Los Angeles (AWLA) and in 2015 the UCLA Pediatric AIDS Coalition (UCLA PAC) group joined my team, “Team Burrito.” They have been part of my team ever since.

Additionally I go speak to UCLA PAC quite often and attend their events. Every year they walk a 10k with me and help me raise money...
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April 2017 | Evan

Evan was born with multiple complications including kidney failure. He was transferred to UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital in 2010 after a five month stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital. Evan has had more than 50 surgical procedures, spent several months in the pediatric intensive care unit and has collectively lived more than two and a half years of his life in the hospital. While in the hospital Evan often asked for a sibling but with his condition the family couldn’t consider a new child at that time.

Since then Evan’s condition has improved. A life-saving transplant at the end of 2013 afforded...
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February 2017 | Austin

On June 23, 2010, two-and-a-half year old Austin Jones went camping with his mother and grandparents. As soon as his father flew in from their home in Thousand Oaks, California to join the festivities, it would be the start of a long vacation. Unfortunately, while camping Austin and his sister Emma got sick. When Emma started feeling ill, the family cut their vacation short and went back to their parents’ house in Moses Lake, Washington to take care of her.

The next five days and four nights were sleepless not only for Austin and Emma, but also for their...
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November 2016 | Robert

Robert Williamson joined the army as a medic at age 19 knowing he was going one of two places after training. Shortly after arriving at first duty station, Fort Carson, Colorado his unit received orders to deploy to Iraq. His first deployment was during “The Surge” from December 2007 to February 2009, a 15-month deployment to Northern Bagdad where some of the most intense fighting in all of Iraq took place, in the Sadr City district. Through countless firefights, multiple explosions and the arduous operation tempo which is combat, Williamson sustained several life altering...
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April 2016 | Ethan

On Oct. 25, 2014, our five-month-old son, Ethan, had an MRI and results revealed he had an optic pathway glioma – that’s the medical term for a tumor in his eye canals and the front part of his brain.

We first noticed Ethan’s eyes would twitch involuntarily at times and after a little research on our own, we dismissed it as part of normal eye development. When he had his four-month check-up, our pediatrician noticed the eye movements and that his head growth had rapidly increased since his last visit. With these two contributing factors, we were referred to a neurosurgeon at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) for a cranial ultrasound... Read More »


March 2016 | Carter

At three weeks old, Carter stopped breathing and turned blue. She had contracted an illness known as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). In the UCLA Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Carter was placed on breathing and feeding tubes, and underwent various breathing treatments for 10 days.

At age two, Carter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to the lack of oxygen to her brain because of her RSV. When she turned three years old, a genetic test revealed she had PurA syndrome, a genetic mutation that only she and 40 other children in the world have. Read More »


January 2016 | Lauren

My name is Lauren Grabowski and I am both a UCLA student and a Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center patient.

I am a fourth year student majoring in human biology and society, with a minor in public health. Throughout my college career, I have been involved in cancer prevention, early detection and cancer research. Naturally, my UCLA classes include lessons on the scientific and social implications of cancer. In my second year, I volunteered for Peer Health Exchange where I went to different high schools in Los Angeles and educated students on nutrition and physical activity to prevent many diseases, including cancer. In my third year, I interned for Breathe LA where I researched and evaluated programs for different lung diseases, including lung cancer. Currently, I am involved in CanCan Health – a non-profit organization dedicated to putting women into action about their breast health, giving them tools for early detection... Read More »


December 2015 | Daniel

Daniel Sterling joined the United States Army at the young age of 17 after graduating high school. Growing up, he had always wanted to become an Army Ranger. After enlisting, Sterling attended the grueling Ranger Indoctrination Program and, at the end of the course, was selected to become a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the U.S. Army’s premier special operations unit. During his time in the Army, he was deployed four times—once to Iraq and three times to Afghanistan.

In 2010, at only 20 years old and on his third deployment, Sterling was severely injured during a night raid in Afghanistan. Like most other nights, his team’s mission was to capture an enemy leader. As the Rangers approached their obective, a firefight broke out... Read More »


November 2015 | Elida

In May of 2014, I felt a pain in my breast, and after further inspection, I found a lump in my left breast. My husband took me to the doctors to have it checked out and was scheduled for a mammogram. When the results came back, I had to have both an ultrasound and a biopsy. In June, I was told that I had ductal carcinoma in situ, which means that I had breast cancer contained in the ducts of my breast. A lumpectomy was done to remove the tumor in July. The outer margins of the lumpectomy showed that there was still more of the cancer in my body, so in August, I opted to have a bilateral mastectomy, removing both breasts to be completely sure that all of the cancer was removed from my left breast and that there wouldn’t be any chance of cancer showing up in my right breast. After the surgery, all of the cancer was removed. My oncologist told me there was no need for any medication, chemotherapy or radiation. I was so happy to hear this news! Read More »


October 2015 | Matt

Although he has only been an official Bruin for a few weeks, Matthew Tapia has already shed a ray of inspiration onto the UCLA campus. Born three months premature, Matt was a mere one and a half pounds; only as big as his father Rudy’s hand. At only nine months old, Matt received open-heart surgery and was told that he had a five percent chance of survival. The doctors believed that if he were to survive, he would never walk or talk again. He was predicted to remain in a vegetative state; however, he had a will that kept him alive and led him to exceed these expectations. Matthew refuses to accept that he is anything but normal and goes through his life normally with a sense of optimism that is inspiring to all.Read More »


September 2015 | Derek

I first noticed something was amiss when I was a 12-year-old in junior high. I was playing basketball and had trouble running the length of the court without losing my breath. Shortly thereafter, I developed flu-like symptoms: coughing, a loss of energy and nausea. I was taken to a local military clinic (my father was a physician’s assistant in the Navy) where x-rays showed an abnormality in my chest. The first person to read the x-ray thought it was pneumonia, however my father thought it looked more serious than that and insisted that I be seen at the nearest major hospital - which was the Naval hospital in Oakland. There, doctors realized that the x-rays hadn’t revealed pneumonia, but rather a large mass in my chest. The surgeons at the hospital thought that it might be operable, so I was scheduled for open chest surgery. However once the surgeons me opened up, they realized the full extent of the problem: the mass extended along my lungs and had a “tail” which wrapped around my heart. There was no way of removing the tumor that wouldn’t risk my life on the operating table. So, the doctors just took a small biopsy of the tumor, but otherwise left it as it was and closed me back up. Read More »


May 2015 | Karen

I thought it was the flu. I had all of the classic symptoms that Thursday afternoon last spring. A fever, chills and those body aches that squirm up and down your spine, telling you you’re in for it. I took some Tylenol. When that didn’t work, some ibuprofen. I didn’t have time for the flu. An emergency appendectomy in December had knocked me down and I was just now back in the game. My new fitness studio needed me. I was teaching seven classes a week and working at the front desk. My new relationship, teetering on the “are we or aren’t we” precipice of real commitment, needed me. And I had a half-marathon to run on Sunday. I didn’t have time for this, I needed to kick the speed up a notch faster. Read More »


April 2015 | Gio

The brain is an amazing and powerful organ. For most of us, it operates effortlessly in a predictable fashion, allowing a person to live life to the fullest. However, when faced with a challenge such as epilepsy, that brain is a ship sailing through uncharted waters, never knowing when a storm may strike. Just short of his fourth birthday, Gio Silveira was diagnosed with frontal lobe epilepsy. A mischievous and sprightly toddler, Gio was accustomed to overpowering his older siblings with an unstoppable will, that more often than not, allowed him to get his way. It was that same will that would serve as a key ingredient, necessary to overcome a challenge of thirty focal seizures a day. Read More »


March 2015 | Kourtney

When she was a baby, Kourtney had small seizures where she would be absent for a few seconds. She woke often during the night and was restless during the day. Kourtney was physically challenged and struggled to express herself because her speech was unintelligible. It was difficult to understand her basic needs like what she wanted to eat, what toy she wanted to play with, who she wanted to hold her, and any other important need of a young child. Kourtney is a super hard worker and has had many hours a week of speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and other special instruction to help her. Read More »


February 2015 | Lisa

In July 2014, Lisa went in for a routine mammogram and when doctors asked her to follow up with an ultrasound and several biopsies, she still believed it was "much ado about nothing." In August, Lisa listened in disbelief as she received the bad news – breast cancer. There was no denying it any longer as she "was in for a long, awful year but the prognosis was good". Lisa had a mastectomy in September and is just now coming to the end of eight chemotherapy treatments. She will soon begin six weeks of radiation treatment. After one final reconstruction surgery in the summer of 2015, Lisa is looking forward to being able to put this ordeal all behind her. Read More »


December 2014 | Ezra

Ezra was born with congenital limb differences, lacking a left knee and left fibula, and missing fingers on his left hand. From day one, he was a happy and healthy baby and toddler. At 11 months, when he started to pull himself up to stand, he received his first prosthetic leg from Shriners Hospital Los Angeles. He quickly learned to walk on his prosthetic leg and has been unstoppable ever since. Read More »






November 2014 | Jacki

As UCLA sophomore Elyse Berlinberg helps to energize Bruin spirit in her first year on yell crew, thoughts of her mom’s health are never far from her mind. In February 2013, Elyse's mom Jacki was feeling a bit run down. Married, mother of three busy girls, and a registered nurse working in public health, she thought her fatigue was just the consequence of her active lifestyle. A visit to her doctor and a basic lab test showed that she was anemic. On April 1, 2013, a colonoscopy revealed a 3 cm tumor...Read More »






October 2014 | Riley

Eleven year old Riley Kim graduated from the 5th grade at Dearborn Elementary Charter Academy in Northridge, Calif. on June 5, 2014. He is an intellectually gifted student who served on the elementary school student council and looked forward to attending Patrick Henry Science and Technology Magnet for middle school. Riley wants to grow up to be a scientist and invent a time machine. He wants to one day go to the UCLA or Cal Tech so he can get a great education...Read More »






September 2014 | Roger

Twelve years after he graduated from UCLA, Roger Todd was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. With deteriorating vision, he began the slow process to take control of the disease by carefully watching his diet and trying various medications. Daily blood tests and semi-annual hemoglobin A1c test became routine. Weight loss and watching his sugar intake paid off. Roger can thankfully say that neither his fifty year battle with diabetes...Read More »






August 2014 | Ray

It was in 1945 when Ray Hammeras, a former Navy pilot, entered UCLA to study engineering. Pledging Beta Theta Pi, Ray would become best friends with fellow fraternity brother, Roy Gaunt. Known in the Beta House as Worm #1 and Worm #2, Ray and Roy were typical college students – they cheered enthusiastically from the student section at the football games and supported the Bruins at all of the home...Read More »






July 2014 | Gabriella

The UCLA Class of 2014 just celebrated their years of hard work, dedication and commitment to their education on Graduation Day. They listened to commencement speeches and reflected on the ups and the downs, the adversity they faced and the obstacles they had to overcome to make it to graduation. Gabriella Kasley was one of the many UCLA seniors who sat in the sea of blue caps and gowns that filled Wilson Plaza. However, Gabriella’s road to graduation was a much bumpier...Read More »






June 2014 | Denise

It was 1992, the winter of her junior year at Fresno State University, when Denise came down with a bad case of the flu. However, after three trips to the student health center in two weeks, she knew it was more than the typical flu. Finally, after six months and three different doctors, there was a diagnosis: Crohn’s disease...Read More »






May 2014 | Suzi

Her first thought was…it’s going to be nothing. It was June of 2013 when she got a call saying her mammogram showed some abnormalities. Suzi, an emergency room nurse, did not want to accept it. Her summer was already planned out: Hawaii, 25th anniversary party, a few cabin trips and parties at the house when all the kids visit from college…Read More »






April 2014 | Eric

This Battling Bruin believes that the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” is a fitting theme to his life. In Oct. 2010, Eric Mansker ’76 went in for knee surgery. It wasn’t a big deal, after all he had been a stuntman in the film and television industry for more than 30 years. After surgery though, Eric developed serious complications…Read More »






March 2014 | Caleigh

The ability to breathe is something that most people take for granted. The average person takes about 28,800 breaths a day. For people living with cystic fibrosis, those breaths are not so easy; it will eventually be a painstaking struggle as they will have to fight to breathe. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States…Read More »






February 2014 | Ian

The struggles of eking out a reasonable manner of living in the utter chaos of war are often concurrent with many other battles, proverbial ones, personal ones, the ones involved in trying to keep family and friends both whole and wholesome. Any soldier overseas is always fighting, at bare minimum, a war with two distinct theatres; one political, the other personal…Read More »






January 2014 | Natalie

In February of 2012, Natalie’s softball coach noticed that while running the bases she was constantly holding her right arm up in a fist. Since there were no other symptoms, nothing was done at the time. As more time passed, though, her parents noticed that she was starting to do this more often - not just while running. That summer, Natalie was sent to see a neurologist to discover the cause of this unusual habit…Read More »






December 2013 | Cathy

In the spring of 2011, Cathy was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer; she had invasive lobular carcinoma in her left breast and her tumor was 4 centimeters. The diagnosis came as a shock to Cathy and her entire family, and immediately she needed to start exploring treatment options – surgery being one. Cathy had several surgical possibilities including a lumpectomy or a single mastectomy…Read More »






November 2013 | Shannon

When Shannon was 10 years old, she experienced her first tonic clonic/grand mal seizure at her grandparents’ cabin in Mt. Herman, Calif. Now 39, Shannon has survived hundreds of absence, myoclonic and tonic clonic seizures which are a result of a genetic form of epilepsy. Her most severe seizures occurred during her pregnancy…Read More »






October 2013 | Debbie

During a routine mammogram in August of 2010, doctors first spotted Debbie’s breast cancer. At first, because of how fast moving and aggressive her cancer was, the attending doctor was not sure if it had originated in the breast or elsewhere in the body. For Debbie it was terrifying to have one of the doctors question whether the cancer had metastasized…Read More »






September 2013 | Nick

When it comes to adversity, Nick Ekbatani ᾿09 fancies himself an expert. Since his childhood, Ekbatani has been forced to find ways to turn lemons into lemonade. As a young boy dealing with the dysfunction of a broken home and the constant bullying at school, he found sanctuary in sports, particularly football…Read More »






August 2013 | Krissie

At 38 Krissie Robin was diagnosed with early stage 1 breast cancer. Her diagnosis was unusual since she was young for breast cancer and there is no family history of breast cancer in her family. She found the lump in her breast from bathing. She let it go for a couple of weeks, and she thought it was some sort of pulled muscle…Read More »






July 2013 | Yolanda

After battling with rheumatoid arthritis since her teens, life was finally looking up for Yolanda Perez. She and her husband had successfully raised both of their daughters and they had finished college and moved out of the house. Maintaining a life of “normalcy” hadn’t been without its challenges. A barrage of doctor’s visits and a multitude of surgeries…Read More »






June 2013 | Kenneth

Kenneth is your average 21-year-old young adult, upbeat and fun-loving. For the past three years he’s been living paralyzed from the shoulders down. When he was a junior in high school he decided to follow in the steps of one of his best friends, Sara Blackmore. She introduced him to the sport of cheerleading, which he quickly fell in love… Read More »






May 2013 | Mary

Beautiful Southern California weather… heading home down PCH after a busy day with clients… sitting at a stoplight watching traffic go by. A pretty normal Friday afternoon in L.A. by all accounts, until Mary looked in her side mirror and saw a tow truck coming way too fast to stop with traffic… Read More »







April 2013 | Dennis

Miraculous recoveries are one in a million, as is this Battling Bruin, Dennis Peel. Dennis enlisted in the Army in March of 2001, and in 2002 was deployed to Saudi Arabia as a Petroleum Specialist. There he had the duty of managing fuel storage and distribution at Riyadh Air Base. Six months into his stay in the Middle East, on March 3, 2003, Dennis was in a car accident… Read More »





March 2013 | Tyler

Tyler has been a Bruin since the day he was born. His first baby clothes were bought at the UCLA student store, and I used to sing, "We Are The Mighty Bruins" to him as a lullaby. From the time he was little, going to UCLA games has been one of his favorite things in the world. As fate would have it, it was at a UCLA basketball game that I first noticed that things weren't right with Tyler… Read More »