FORT BLISS, TX - Imagine thinking you have a common cold, but the diagnosis is more severe than you think. In May of 2017, Spc. Jesus Flores found himself in this position.
"In April 2017, I was pulling staff duty on Friday to Saturday morning. I had a fever a couple days before that, so I thought that the cold had subsided, but my symptoms were still there. I had the normal symptoms from headaches to sore throat and I was worried because I started bleeding from my nose and start spitting some too," Flores said. "On Saturday morning I was feeling dizzy and had a headache and couldn't stand it anymore. My staff sergeant sent me to doctor because my gut feeling was 'this isn't right'," he said.
Flores' instincts were right. After discussions with doctors, lab tests and possible diagnoses, Flores was referred to a clinic outside of Fort Riley, Kansas, where he received a bone marrow biopsy. After a week of waiting patiently, he received the results.
"I told them to just tell me the results on the phone. I was so anxious at that moment, the doctor started explaining to me that it was a type of acute leukemia." Flores said. "I packed and grabbed my things and arrived at the hospital that night."
Flores received his first chemotherapy treatment the following month.
"I was still confused. A week and a half (before), I was healthy and strong and now I'm hooked to a machine," he said.
Flores says his family rallied around him for support, but the fire control specialist says he was determined to fight this challenge alone.
"I didn't want them to see me in that state. I spent two months in the hospital. The doctors told me that we had to move to the next phase, get a donor and do a stem cell transplant. I was going to need someone to take care of me for several months. I just didn't want to bother my family with these problems," Flores said.
In August of 2017, Flores was transferred to a cancer center in Tampa for his stem cell transplant. After recovering for three months, he was transferred to the Fort Stewart Warrior Transition Battalion in Georgia, a place he calls 'a blessing.'
"My recovery was slow and tedious. I couldn't do any heavy lifting or go out until my immune system was stronger. Emotionally, I had to deal with my pride and lack of patience. Months after I moved to Georgia, we had a town hall meeting, and someone came to explain the Warrior Games to us and the process of making Army Trials first. I was excited about it and the prospect of trying something new. I have been pushing myself to get better and stay as healthy as I can," he said.
Flores' persistence and determination paid off. He joined nearly 100 wounded, ill or injured athletes to compete for a spot for Team Army for the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games, June 21 - 30 in Tampa, Fl. He will compete in cycling, track, powerlifting, rowing, seated volleyball, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.
"I love the endurance and the support. I can't give up or make an excuse because of my condition. I love how hard every one of us came to get better and know how hard it has been to get to this point. We came to prove that we can still kick butt while in pain," he said.
But Flores says, an inspirational line from a video gave him the motivation he needed in life and to compete at the Army Trials.
"What hit me was the line that came from one of the videos: 'When it's too tough for everybody else... it's just right for me.' It blew me away, I connected to it. I'm in remission right now and I'm happy that I can run and do things like I used to before. I took control of my emotions and decided to work on myself to be a better me."