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Girl battling cancer celebrates early graduation (video)

Keldy  Ortiz

By Keldy Ortiz
Dec. 23, 2012 at 6:23 a.m.

Jessica Villarreal, 16, dances with her father, Juan Sr., during her graduation party at the Golden Gecko on Sunday. Jessica, who was diagnosed with neuroendocrine carcinoma, a rare cancer, when she was 11 years old, was presented with a diploma,  cap and gown from Victoria East High School and wanted to celebrate her accomplishments with friends and family.

Family, friends, music and enough cake to last for days.

Jessica Villarreal enjoyed Sunday's celebration, but it could be her last one.

Struck with neuroendocrine carcinoma, a rare form of cancer, when she was 11, she didn't pay any mind Sunday to her somber reality. A recent visit to the doctor indicated she had only a few weeks left to live. Jessica, however, was not focused on being sad but on other things such as who was coming to her graduation party.

The party was in celebration of Jessica, 16, a junior, graduating early from school. After no longer being able to attend Victoria East High School because of her illness, she didn't think graduating was obtainable. When she got her diploma, she called it the best day of her life.

"I never thought I would get my diploma," she said. "I freaked out when I got it."

In a one-shoulder, black dress with silver embellishments, Jessica laughed it up with friends and received different sorts of gifts. The party, planned for about three weeks, was at the Golden Gecko in downtown Victoria. It was there, thanks to area organizations in the community that wanted to fulfill her last wish, a day to party with friends.

"We just wanted to make sure we supply her with whatever she needs," said Ray Ortega, who helped put on the party for Jessica. "Through all the pain and sorrow, she still made it to school. That's what brought me to her."

Her mother, Veronica Villareal, called it a blessing that people from the community wanted to help out. She was glad people wanted to see her daughter happy through difficult times.

"Everyone fell in love with her and wanted to help," Villarreal said. "God does everything for a reason. Despite her illness, she still kept trying."

Halfway through the party, Jessica's friends gathered to give her a photo of their time together.

"It was a memory," said Dakota James, 18, who has been Jessica's friend since the sixth grade. "She's here, and we could be with her."

The party could not be complete without some dancing. At one point, Jessica and her dad made it out to the dance floor. When they did, everyone in the room cheered and applauded. It was a moment everyone in the room will remember.

"(My parents) said they were proud," Jessica said. "They didn't know I was going to make it until now."



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