Cyriss Fareas honored at football game
Honored by her teammates and school, Cyriss Fareas walked down the field, eight months cancer-free.
FAIRHAVEN — Fairhaven senior Cyriss Fareas will be cheering for more than just football this season.
Fareas wasn’t so sure of her future this time last year. In fact, she wasn’t sure she would even make it this far.
On April 14, 2020, Fareas visited her doctor for her annual physical exam. Everything seemed fine until the doctor touched the skin around her collarbone and found swollen lymph nodes. By the way her doctor reacted, Fareas knew something was wrong. Fareas then visited a specialist in Boston, who found that her ultrasounds were abnormal. On May 22, she was admitted for an emergency biopsy. Four days later, Fareas received the news that she never saw coming.
“The last thing they put through your mind was cancer,” Fareas said. “It was hard emotionally, physically and mentally.”
Fareas is a member of the Fairhaven High School cheer team, where she is a “base,” meaning she holds her teammates during routines. Between her conditioning, keeping up with her honors-level courses, working 36-hour weeks at her job, she thought the chest pains and fatigue six months leading up to her diagnosis were just a result of her busy and active lifestyle.
“Looking back, there was too much pushing on my heart,” Fareas said of the tumors. “I could fall asleep closing my eyes, but my brain isn’t programmed to attribute that to cancer.”
Pushing through the pain
Fareas was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin Lymphoma after finding four tumors in her lymph nodes. HL is classified into four stages, ranging from the involvement of a single lymph node region to spreading to both sides of the diaphragm and other organs. Luckily, Fareas’ condition was caught early enough for treatment.
Diagnosed toward the end of her junior year, during the pandemic, Fareas said she was lucky to be learning remotely at the time, and she isn’t sure if she would have been able to push through full in-person school with her treatments.
Chris Carrig, athletic director and science teacher at the high school, was one of the first to learn of Fareas’ condition and helped work her academics around her treatment so she wouldn’t fall behind.
“To not have the in-person support from teammates and coaches definitely made her struggle more difficult,” Carrig said. “It speaks more to her strength.”
Cheer co-coach Hannah Mattos was in her first year as a coach and immediately put Fareas on the competition team after observing her drive and perseverance.
“She put in the work,” Mattos said. “She was an ideal athlete who you’d want on your team.”
That determination carried over to Fareas’ battle against cancer. When she told Mattos of her condition, Fareas said, “Don’t worry, I’m going to fight it.”
“I was honestly heart-shattered,” Mattos said. “I wanted to take that disease from her and fight for her myself.”
Once diagnosed, Fareas was given two options: 12 weeks of chemotherapy with potential studies and clinical trials to follow, or eight weeks of chemotherapy followed by radiation. She chose the latter.
Fareas was one of the lucky ones — two months after starting treatment, she was cancer-free.
“It feels amazing,” Fareas said. “I still don’t believe it happened that fast.”
Fareas said that after completing chemo, she didn’t even need radiation; in fact, her doctors told her she didn’t need the last week of treatment but she decided to complete it just in case. It wasn’t until the end of treatment when she began to lose her hair.
Throughout the summer, due to a compromised immune system, Fareas was required to wear a face mask and completely distance herself from her friends.
“To me, it felt like those eight weeks were forever,” Fareas said.
Fareas said it was easier to hide her condition in the summer when she wasn’t in school, especially with the pandemic and social distancing. She informed her coaches first and waited for them to relay the message to her teammates, who showered her with more support than she could have imagined, dropping off cards and a basket full of goodies at her house. They even held a socially-distanced drive-by parade, “hyping her up and letting her know she’s doing amazing.”
“There wasn’t a day during my treatment that there wasn’t a basket on my front porch,” Fareas said.
Fareas has since bounced back. Mattos said she came into the season ready to step up, taking every critique and asking questions to better improve as an athlete.
“She has a whole new outlook on life,” Mattos said. “It’s a tough journey that no high schooler I could ever wish this upon.”
Moving forward with a new hope
Although Fareas is now eight months into remission, she still struggles with after effects of her treatment. She said the chemo has deeply affected her bone strength to the point where she couldn’t get up two weeks after finishing treatment. After asking to sit out practice due to back pains, she found out she had an infection from the chemo, but continued to work hard on low-impact training.
“I’d rather have bone pain than cancer,” Fareas said.
Even though there is a lot to reflect back on this past year, Fareas is looking up and moving toward her future. She said she looks at photos from before her diagnosis and feels discouraged, but she said things are starting to go back to normal, especially now that her hair is growing back.
“You can’t have bad spirits when you go into something like that,” Fareas said.
Instead, she is taking her experience and moving forward with an interest in oncology nursing, a change of heart that happened during her treatment. Prior to last year, she had always wanted to become a lawyer.
“I know what it feels like to be that person in that chair,” Fareas said. “I knew it was hard to find other people what it’s like to go through that and I don’t want them to feel alone.”
So far, Fareas has been accepted to all the schools she applied to, including her first choice, UMass Dartmouth. She is awaiting her acceptance into the nursing program.
On April 9, Farias was celebrated alongside her teammates during Senior Night before Fairhaven’s 14-0 win over GNB Voc-Tech.