Doctors never believed Jacqueline Rodriguez, who has large tumors on her cheeks, tongue and chest, would never make it past her first birthday.
But the California 16-year-old, who suffers from lymphatic malformations, is exceeding expectations with remarkable perseverance.
The teen is about to graduate high school, and hopes to pursue nursing at Stanford University to help others.
“I want to be a nurse because I grew up in a hospital helping my nurses take care of others,” she told Barcroft TV.
Her mom, Evelyn Belen, 52, said doctors told her while she was pregnant with Jacqueline that her daughter’s quality of life would be very low, and she was given the option to terminate the pregnancy.
“We chose life,” Belen said.
Jacqueline had her first surgery at just 3 days old.
“They took off two almost golf ball-sized tumors from her throat,” her dad, Paul Rodriguez, 60, said. “At first she couldn’t even swallow. We had to give her formula through her g-tube.”
They explained the tumors keep growing back, but different medications and treatment are helping keep the condition from growing.
Jacqueline continues to eat through a feeding tube and speaks through an iPad, but doesn’t let her health get in the way of being a normal teenager.
“I like playing my guitar and playing tennis," she said. "Tennis helps with my confidence by knowing I am strong enough to play a sport. I’m a normal human being that has health issues like everyone else.”