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‘Community’ takes on special meaning for student diagnosed with cancer

By on February 28, 2018 in ACU News, Campus News, Features with 1 Comment

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Members of Frater Sodalis social club shaved their heads in support of fellow member Daniel Tapia as he underwent chemotherapy. From left are Shelby Facundo-Moreno, Kyle Bowen, Austin Cooke, Zachary Kolb, Joel Childers,  Ryne Parrish, Jacob Dukes, Nathan Vela, Ryan Gaston and Jaime Torres.
Members of Frater Sodalis shaved their heads in support of fellow club member Daniel Tapia as he underwent chemotherapy. From left are Shelby Facundo-Moreno, Kyle Bowen, Austin Cooke, Zachary Kolb, Joel Childers, Ryne Parrish, Jacob Dukes, Nathan Vela, Ryan Gaston and Jaime Torres.

Daniel Tapia enrolled at ACU as a junior in the fall of 2015 after spending two years at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California, his home state.

When it came time to move on to a four-year university, Tapia didn’t have to think about where to go. Two sisters, Nora (Tapia ’04) Perez and Rebecca Tapia (’10), a cousin and his grandmother all had attended Abilene Christian University. Daniel had visited the campus growing up.

“It’s kind of in the family,” he said.

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Daniel Tapia
Daniel Tapia

But it was more than a family connection that attracted Daniel. He wasn’t involved with campus life at Mt. San Antonio and didn’t feel a sense of community.

“I wanted a Christian college for the community,” he said.

At the time, Daniel had no idea just how important the Christian college community would be in his life. Maybe he didn’t even realize just how deep the bond among Christian brothers could be. But he would soon find out.

Daniel transferred to ACU in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in fine art. His focus is on graphic design, with a concentration in branding and illustration.

“There’s kind of a growing market for that,” he said.

Daniel also pledged Frater Sodalis, a social club for men that was formed in 1943. Life was rolling along like it was supposed to for a college junior with nothing but blue skies ahead. He was on track to graduate in December 2017.

Then came July 2016. Daniel went to his doctor in California for a checkup before returning to ACU for the fall semester. What he expected to be a routine exam ultimately turned into a diagnosis of cancer. After surgery in California, he returned to campus expecting to finish the semester. Daniel was living with the president of Frater Sodalis at the time, Joel Childers, who informed other club members that their “brother,” as Frater Sodalis means, had cancer.

About a third of the way into the fall 2016 semester, Daniel had to go back to California for chemotherapy treatments.

“The direction my life was going had to stop for a while,” he said.

Back in California, Daniel underwent two rounds of chemo, each lasting 13 weeks. They left him drained and unable to do anything but rest on the couch at his parents’ home. It was then that the true sense of the word “community” hit Daniel, and he was thankful he had made the decision to attend ACU.

During his stay in California, Frater Sodalis brothers used FaceTime to keep Daniel up-to-date on what was going on at ACU. One of the sponsors offered to contact alumni in California about flying Daniel to Houston for treatment, but he chose to stay in California.

Daniel’s ACU brothers even shaved their heads in support as Daniel went through chemotherapy. Now, a-year-and-a-half after Daniel went to his doctor for that initial checkup, the skies are looking blue again. Daniel’s hair has grown back, he is president of Frater Sodalis, he is scheduled to graduate in May 2018, and best of all he is cancer-free.

“Every blood test I’ve done,” he said, “has come out negative.”

That would be a happy ending by itself for Daniel, but life is just getting better. On the first day of Daniel’s chemo treatments, he was contacted by a reporter for the ACU student newspaper, The Optimist. Her name is Lauren Franco and she is scheduled to graduate in May 2019.

That first interview went well. Lauren liked Daniel’s artwork and he made something especially for her. They connected on a personal level.

“Now,” Daniel said, “we’re dating.”

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  1. Bob Bailey says:

    God Bless you, Daniel, and even all of those shaved heads who were such a great support and blessing to you. And, ‘yes,’ even from this ‘ole Sub-T’, Skipper, ’51-’52, Bob Bailey – Austin.

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