While most graduates of the CHS Class of 2011 were preparing for college courses, traveling abroad or working, 20-year-old former MPC student Elizabeth Reyes was planning her own funeral after finding out she had ovarian cancer.
Reyes died Feb. 24.
Carter Perez, Reyes’ cousin, says doctors performed a biopsy on Reyes in late November and found out she had metastatic mucinous ovarian cancer. According to PublicMed.gov, out of the approximate 22,000 cases of ovarian cancer occurring each year in the United States, fewer than 2,000 of those cases are mucinous ovarian.
Cancer eventually spread to Reyes’ lungs and a few months later her brain, says 2011 graduate Karmina Lopez-Beltran, Reyes’ friend since middle school.
While some Carmel residents and students are shocked by the 20-year-old’s diagnosis and passing away, The New York Times reported in December 2012 that ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of female cancer-related death and the eighth most common cancer in women. According to The Times, about 68 percent of women in the U.S. diagnosed with ovarian cancer die from it.
Most ovarian cancer develops after menopause, according to the American Cancer Association, but despite ovarian cancer being rare in women under 40, Reyes was just 20 when diagnosed.
Along with facing a fatal disease, the CHS graduate faced the responsibilities of making funeral arrangements. 2012 grad Erika Lygren says the MPC student signed documents to have her body cremated because she did not want to put any more financial pressure on her family.
In addition to being considerate toward her parents during such a rough time, Reyes was a compassionate, kind and generous person on and off the CHS campus.
“I know she was a part of concert choir for the majority of high school,” says Rebecca Smith, a classmate of Reyes since 2004. “Music and singing were her passions in life.”
During senior Taylor Ingle’s freshman year, Reyes was president of the Concert Choir and helped inspire students like Ingle to pursue their passions for music as well.
Lopez-Beltran says the music enthusiast also traveled to South America with the Peru Project in her senior year to volunteer to help a small village. Reyes helped raise money to build greenhouses in Peru.
Along with her singing and her work in Peru, Reyes had a love for the French language. She had Perez tutor her while she attended Monterey Peninsula College.
“We both enjoy French,” Perez says. “We also enjoyed the simple things in life. I love having a good laugh and having a friend around, as did she…. Many people will miss her, but all she wants from us is to be happy and remember the positive things in life.”