WEST MONROE, La. (KNOE) - A West Monroe High School senior’s journey to graduate this spring is unlike anything you’ve probably ever come across.
“We’re walking a road that we’re kind of forging as we go. That path is very unprecedented,” said Heather Gulde.
Corbin Gulde was a healthy and vibrant kid growing up. When he was 3-years-old, his dad noticed a strange knot above his shoulder. As concerned parents, he and his wife, Heather, took Corbin to the hospital.
That’s when their lives changed forever.
“When we looked at the x-ray film against the light, you could see the tumor the size of a baseball was in the chest of our 3-year-old and it was pressing against his lungs, his ribs and his spine,” said Heather.
It was cancer. Rhabdomyosarcoma. A rare and aggressive disease that forms in soft tissue — specifically skeletal muscle tissue or sometimes hollow organs.
But Corbin beat it. After one year of treatment and chemotherapy, he was cancer free.
His family believed they conquered and endured the worst part of Corbin’s young life, but this was only the beginning.
At 15-years-old, Corbin developed osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.
That’s when they also found out what was causing him to develop these fatal diseases.
“From that prognosis I learned I had Li-Fraumeni syndrome. It’s pretty much a predisposition to develop cancer. So I have half the cancer fighting genes of a normal person,” said Corbin.
Again, Corbin fought off this second cancer and entered remission.
A few years later when he turned 17, it was the same story again. Two new forms of cancer appeared. This time it was Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia.
In January 2020, Corbin was rushed to ICU where he spent 40 days fighting for life. His mom says his condition worsened to the point that doctor’s considered placing Corbin on hospice care.
She says that was the first time in her life that she felt her son might not make it, but she never lost hope.
“Corbin looked over at us and he said, ‘I’m not afraid to die. Mom and dad I just want you to know I’m not afraid to die. I don’t want to die in a hospital. That’s not how I want to be remembered, but I’m not afraid of death.’ There was something about him about that that freed us to focus more on loving him and being thankful for the moments that we had than being so afraid of what we might have to face,” said Heather.
Jump forward a few months to May, and the 18-year-old managed to graduate on time with his 2020 class.
He’s now at St. Jude’s in Memphis where he continues to receive chemo treatments for leukemia and osteosarcoma.
“I’m feeling great. I’m able to do everything I want to do. I can play guitar, go for a walk every day, and I feel totally fine which I’m very, very thankful for,” said Corbin.
Heather is also a teacher at West Monroe High School. She says the COVID-19 pandemic did create some unexpected challenges for her and Corbin, but she says it was nothing her son couldn’t handle.
“It’s weird. Especially with school getting cancelled towards the end of the year. No prom and no graduation. I felt like everyone gets to know what it’s like to be me,” said Corbin.
He credits his three personal “F’s” for fueling him to never give up. Those are his family, his friends, and his faith.
“I’ve learned to never take these days for granted. Because if you don’t take the days for granted, then you won’t be afraid when it’s over,” said Corbin.
Corbin has enrolled as an English major at Louisiana Tech University for the fall 2020 semester. He plans to pursue law school after completing his undergraduate degree with aspirations of becoming a criminal attorney.
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