Pediatric cancer survivor honored for work as pediatric nurse
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — 10 years after winning his battle with leukemia, Pepper Vigil is using his experience to help children and teens fight that same fight.
It all started one day at practice. Vigil thought he sprained his knee.
“But I was in so much pain that I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t walk, I was not eating. They did some blood tests and, next thing I know, I had leukemia,” Vigil said.
That diagnosis changed everything for then-15-year-old Pepper and his family.
“It took a lot of things from me. I didn’t get to go to high school. I was a pretty prospective athlete going into high school. It just kind of took that normalcy into my life,” Vigil said.
At one point in his journey, the Make-a-Wish Foundation granted his wish to visit Rome.
“It was probably one of the best things to ever happen to me, while I was in treatment,” Vigil said.
Make-a-Wish granted the wish with the help of volunteers and sponsors, including Dion’s Pizza.
It’s now been 10 years since that trip and a lot has changed then.
What’s remained the same is Vigil’s fight. Now, he’s not the main one in the battle – instead, he’s working as a pediatric oncology nurse at UNM Hospital where he helps other children and teens going through the same fight he fought.
“My health staff made a huge difference. They were awesome, they treated us almost like family. They just made a huge difference and I just wanted to try and pass that on to some of the kids that I care for now,” Vigil said. “It makes a big difference when someone is able to say I know what you’re going through.”
Last week, Vigil shared his story at a Make-a-Wish dinner where he reminded others of his wish and even witnessed a child get his own – a trip to Disney World.
Vigil says his experience with leukemia influenced his decision to be a pediatric oncology nurse. His goal is to help these children and teens feel less alone in a time of uncertainty.