Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.

Teen With Leukemia Cares For Other Kids With Cancer

Jason Pagano

Maga Barzallo-Sockemtickem, 17, has been battling leukemia since she was 15 years old.

Before being diagnosed, Maga would do anything that let her run, especially play soccer.

Then one day, Maga felt weak and had to lean on a bus stop near her school. She found out she had a rare form of leukemia.

Maga says it was a hard transition from being a soccer player to being in bed all day.

"I didn't leave my bed, which was really weird for me because I had always been an active person," Maga says. "It was like I was trapped in a box. I just remember feeling sicker than I ever had imagined was possible."

Maga has been dealing with leukemia for two years. She's struggled to find the strength to keep going because sometimes it has felt like she was never going to get out of Children's Hospital, where she has received treatment.

"It's something that you have to find within yourself, that power to go on. You have fight for it. You do. And you gotta just know you're gonna beat it, or know that you're gonna try."

Maga uses this strength to help other kids on the youth cancer floor at Children's. She'll get them doing anything not to be in bed all day.

Maga explains, "What you do is you get people out of their rooms, you get them talking, you get them excited, because sometimes it's just like a ghost town on that floor and everyone's so quiet and everyone's keeping to themselves, and that's not how you get through things."

Maga has a history of comforting friends. Growing up, she used to tell her best friend, Antonia Dorn, that she would protect her from getting sick; Antonia, 17, was scared of getting cancer because her dad died of tongue cancer. 

[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "It%27s%20something%20that%20you%20have%20to%20find%20within%20yourself%2C%20that%20power%20to%20go%20on.%20You%20have%20fight%20for%20it.%20You%20do.%20And%20you%20gotta%20just%20know%20you%27re%20gonna%20beat%20it%2C%20or%20know%20that%20you%27re%20gonna%20try.", "style": "inset"}]]Maga remembers telling Antonia, "If you got cancer or anything, I would take it away from you. I wouldn't let you go through that because I saw how afraid you were. I just knew that I wouldn't let it happen."

Maga found her own comfort from talking to people at the hospital who understood and would just be there for her.

But she had to watch some of her close friends die.

"They were innocent and they were full of life," Maga says. "And it was taken away, all their sweetness and their goodness and they're just gone. It takes your breath away and not in a good way. You just don't believe that someone that small and little can just be gone."

Maga is healing now and regaining her strength. As long as she is able to, she says she's going to stick around the hospital making more kids smile.

This fall, KUOW hosted an after-school workshop for high school students at the South Park Community Center. It was part of our youth radio program, RadioActive. Six youth producers spent eight weeks learning what it means to be a radio journalist. They created powerful stories about subjects close to their hearts. Listen to RadioActive stories here and stay up-to-date with RadioActive on Facebook.