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Queens Impact Awards: After winning battle with cancer, teen helps others affected by diseases

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Most people would give up at the times when Carly Rose Nieves decided to keep fighting.

The Christ the King High School student from Middle Village was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of blood and bone marrow cancer, in 2003 when she was 7.

She has since fought through years of treatment and progress only to be knocked down by a number of setbacks.

Nieves was first told she was in remission after 2 1/2 years of chemotherapy, but then relapsed when she was 12. She then endured an additional three years of gruelling chemotherapy before she was declared in remission again. She has finally begun to feel a sense of normalcy again after years of living most of her life in and out of hospitals.

But the end of her illness was not the end of Nieves’ fight, as she has continued to work to help children affected by serious illness by organizing charity initiatives.

Since 2010, she has organized what started as annual blood drives at her school, which have produced hundreds of pints of blood and dozens of new bone marrow donors.

“It’s so important because I wouldn’t be here today without blood transfusio­ns,” she said “I’m just so thankful today to those who do give blood. It has helped so many people.”

Nieves cannot give blood herself because of her illness, so she figured arranging drives would allow her to help others in need.

“This is just the next best thing I can do and bring awareness and help in any way I can,” she said.

The brave teen started, along with her family, the Carly Rose Foundation, which helps families and children struggling with life-threatening illness.

In another act of selflessness, Nieves decided that instead of having a big party for her Sweet Sixteen birthday, she would hold a fund-raiser and toy drive for the John Theissen Children’s Foundation. She was able to amass more than 200 toys for the foundation, which provides support and services for sick children and their families.

Now 18, Nieves is looking forward to graduating next year and has started thinking about going to college.

She wants to study American Sign Language as her major, which is offered at LaGuardia Community College. She first became interested in AMS when she was undergoing treatment in the hospital and met a couple of children with cancer who communicated through sign language. She started to teach herself sign language using online tutorials and in a program at Christ the King. She said she hopes to one day be an interpreter at hospitals or a teacher for deaf children.

Nieves said she hopes her story can help other young people inflicted by cancer conquer the illness.

“I know it’s a scary thing, but you have to just be as positive as you can and you just have to push through it somehow,” she said. “The more positive you can be, the better you will be. You have to actually try to fight it. It’s not just the medicine. You have to make the effort to get through it.”

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 12:00 am, May 14, 2014
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