CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) — Students and staff at Blackstone Valley Prep High School have spent the last month finding ways to honor one of their classmates, who lost his battle with a rare form of cancer on Jan. 1.
Friends of Edwin Rivera, 19, said he had dreams of becoming a Marine and graduating from high school. But, in early spring 2016, Edwin was dealt a difficult hand. He was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
A year before Edwin was diagnosed, a special person entered his life.
Paige Jadach, now a senior at Blackstone Valley Prep, was a freshman when she and Edwin met one morning before school. Paige was dropped off early because her dad had an appointment. She said Edwin came to school early every day because of his parents’ work schedules.
“We had mutual friends. We didn’t really talk that much because I was kinda shy, and he was the opposite of shy,” she said. “We just kicked it off from there. He was amazing. I never had a friendship like that.”
Paige said after only a few months of meeting, she and Edwin were the best of friends.
“Our groups kinda combined. I had this group of friends and he joined,” she explained. “He was always there. I was with him every day.”
Paige said one morning in the spring of 2017, Edwin didn’t show up to school early. But, knowing he had a torn meniscus, Paige thought he may have been at the doctor’s.
“And then one day, he told me it wasn’t a torn meniscus. The doctor read the scan wrong and it was actually cancer,” she said. “He was so calm about it. I was like ‘Edwin, how are you so calm?’ And he said, ‘It’s going to be okay.'”
David Jose, the Dean of College and Careers at Blackstone Valley Prep, said he had a special relationship with Edwin because he was part of the first high school class. When Edwin broke the news to Jose, he said he didn’t know how to take it.
“I kept thinking I had to keep it together. But Edwin said, ‘It’s cool though. We’ve got to plan,'” Jose said.
Edwin’s “plan” was to continue living his life to the best of his ability. Through cancer treatments, he still made every attempt to get his school work done. He was planning to graduate from Blackstone Valley Prep this year.
Jose said at first, Edwin was responding well to treatments. He was even able to go on his Make A Wish trip to Disney World in July 2018. But, Jose said Edwin went to the hospital the day he got home from his trip. He’d learned the cancer had spread, and the outlook was bleak.
In late October 2018, Edwin invited Jose and two other school administrators to the hospital to tell them he and his doctors had decided to end his treatment. Together, Edwin and school staff made a list of all the things he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
“He wanted to go to Germany. That was the number one thing,” Jose said.
So with money they had raised, the school sent Edwin to Germany in December to see his girlfriend, who he met at school when she came to America as a foreign exchange student.
Unfortunately, Jose said Edwin cut the trip short because he wasn’t feeling well. He came home in late December and passed away on New Year’s Day.
“It’s hard to process someone who is 18 passing away from cancer,” Jose said. “Even though we knew it was going to happen. I spent three months of my life preparing for that day. We had to get ourselves into a position to console a community of kids who were going to be upset about it.”
Just a few days after Edwin’s death, the Blackstone Valley Prep community celebrated his life with a ceremony in the high school gym. People spoke about Edwin’s impact and legacy, and then they all recreated Good Night Lights in Edwin’s honor. Good Night Lights was a favorite of Edwin’s during his time at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, said Good Night Lights creator Steve Brosnihan.
“The world isn’t as dark as you may think it is. Every light counts.”
When Edwin Rivera passed away from cancer in January, his classmates honored him with a recreation of @GNlights. Tonight at 11:15 on @wpri12, they share the legacy of love Edwin left behind. pic.twitter.com/KGxwk6VLwi— Caroline Goggin (@CarolineGoggin) February 9, 2019
As for Paige, Edwin’s good friend, she has created a “Kindness Krew” in Edwin’s honor, with the intention of spreading kindness just like Edwin did.