‘Model’ kid turned her cancer into her cause

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Carly Rose Nieves will soon be emblazoned on the fleet of 75 vehicles for the New York Blood Center (NYBC).
Carly Rose Nieves will soon be emblazoned on the fleet of 75 vehicles for the New York Blood Center (NYBC).

Soon you’ll be seeing a lot more of Carly Rose Nieves.

The 16 year old from Middle Village, who her mom calls “not your typical teenager” will soon be emblazoned on the fleet of 75 vehicles for the New York Blood Center (NYBC).

Part of the NYBC’s “rebranding campaign,” Nieves, a freshman at Christ the King High School (CTK), was one of eight from the greater New York area who sat for a photo shoot on March 31.

“It was fun, they were such nice people,” said the teen, who admitted she was “a little bit nervous at first.”

What sets Nieves apart, said her mom, is her heart.

Battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) — a cancer of the white blood cells that normally fight infections — since she was seven, Nieves received blood transfusions and underwent two years of intensive chemotherapy. Then, at age 12, she suffered a relapse of ALL. The relapse placed her in the high-risk category, which required additional intensive, high-dose chemotherapy.

Now Nieves — who regrew a full head of hair following the chemo — has been out of treatment for a little over a year and is in remission.

Her focus is school — she plans to pursue American Sign Language in college, since it’s her favorite subject — and helping others, as it has always been.

“She’s living and loving life,” said mom Lisa Cangialosi-Horner. “She is so selfless, she’s just amazing.”

While Nieves was fighting her own battle, she was also working to help the friends she made in the hospital, others who are ill — and to spread awareness about how important and easy it is to register and donate blood.

“I feel like I’ve always wanted to help,” said Nieves. “But after relapsing you look at things differently, It’s sad that there are kids suffering and spending half their lives in the hospital.”

To that end, the family has organized numerous blood drives at CTK and has raised thousands for Friends of Karen — an organization that supports critically-ill children and their families.

“She helped us regain entry to Christ the King,” said Harvey Schaffler, executive director of donor marketing for NYBC. “Now we have blood drives there twice a year.”

“I’m very proud of Carly, she’s an amazingly strong young woman,” said Cangialosi-Horner. “She thinks of others before herself, and she’s always thinking and praying for her friends in the hospital.”

Schaffler explained that the new campaign has received “enormously positive feedback” so far because “what really resonates for donors is envisioning the people they help.”

So Nieves’ image, along with the others featured — set to roll out by the summer — will not only draw attention to her own fight, but to that of those still in need of help.

For Nieves, who turned her cancer into her cause, seeing herself on a moving vehicle may be a little daunting at first.

“I may feel like a celebrity, but I’ll still probaly be in shock,” she admitted.

For more information about becoming a marrow donor, call 1-800-MARROW-2. It’s a simple process that takes just a few minutes of paperwork and a cheek swab.

To learn more about Friends of Karen, which will be hosting a gala fundraiser on August 2 at the Inn at New Hyde Park, go to www.friendsofkaren.org.