Gabi Barreiro, then 15 years old, remembers the words clearly still two years later. "You have cancer."
"I remember all of the dates. The first day was Feb. 5, 2018. We went to the doctor because we thought I had an iron deficiency. I was pale, I wasn't eating anything. The doctor noticed my heart rate was a little high for my activity so they did a chest x-ray and they found a mass than bigger than my heart," the Chanhassen senior said.
It was Feb. 14, 2018, Valentine's Day, when it was confirmed. She had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
She went from playing soccer, a part of a Metro West Conference championship team, a sophomore at Chanhassen High School, to weekly chemotherapy sessions. She went through five intense rounds of chemo before a final step with the drug Brentuximab vedotin; the research for this funded by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and was approved by the FDA just months earlier.
"It was tough. I think the number was 225 missed class periods. Most in the second semester," Barreiro said.
Barreiro was in school part-time, other times completing her school work from home and in the hospital.
"When I was first diagnosed, my goal was to get back for the high school soccer season. My treatment was lengthened a bit and I wasn't quite where I wanted to be, but I was glad to make it back on the field," Barreiro said. Her first game back came against Bloomington Kennedy in September 13, 2018.
Fifteen days later, it was announced she was in remission.
"I always knew I wanted to be back on the field. I started playing soccer since like I was four when I was living in North Carolina. I suffered nerve damage from the chemo. My ankles were weak, so I was in physical therapy for that. And then right before my senior season, I developed a stress fracture. I was still healing, I was still in recovery. I never feel like I reached my full potential. But, it was nice to play at all. It just felt amazing to be back on the field, having that last season with my teammates," Barreiro said.
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society had done so much for Barreiro and her family that she wanted to give back. She became one of 12 Minnesota youth to participate in the 2020 Student of the Year fundraiser. Barreiro's team collected $19,000 over seven weeks for the February event. The Students of the Year collectively brought in $313,000.
In December, Barreiro was part of "Team Hemoglobin," a Chanhassen DECA team project group that organized an elementary-aged winter carnival with games with proceeds donated to the LLS. She also has been involved at local schools with Pennies for Patients, kicking off campaigns with kids at pep fests, sharing her story.
Barreiro was getting ready to be a captain for the girls track and field team this spring. She was among the Storm's top long and triple jumpers in 2019.
"I've always loved track, but it's been really hard because something always seemed to pop up. My freshman year I sprained my ankle. My sophomore year I had cancer. Last year I was still recovering and wasn't able to go all out. And now this year with the pandemic. No matter what has happened though, all the ups and down, track has remained so fun to me. I met so many great people. Some of my best friends, were met in track. It's been amazing," Barreiro said.
Next fall Barreiro will attend the University of Wisconsin and study Industrial Engineering. After a thought of architecture and then potentially business or marketing, she quickly found a passion for engineering, with the business side.
"I have always loved math, loved physics. I just love numbers," she said. Ironically, her dad and brother both work in the same field. Barreiro said this didn't even dawn on her until she made the decision.
"It certainly makes for a funny story now," she said.
Other senior captains for the Storm were Natalie Wilson, Nick Scheller, Zach Long, and Tim Coenen.
Scheller, Minnesota's Gatorade Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, has committed to academics and athletics at the United States Air Force Academy. Long will continue running at the University of North Dakota.
Additional seniors on the track and field roster were: Chrisawe Chhum, Aaliyah Cox, Camile Lemmn, Madeleine Maravigli, Aislynn Murray, Lily Vernier, Madilyn Welton, Caelen Cusick, Josh Davis, Ryan Devenedetto, Jacob Dorian, Josh Dorian, Lucas Mische, Nicholas Moen, and Aidan Wilhelm.