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Central Washington University

CWU student doesn’t let rare cancer keep her from graduating

Friday, June 8, 2018

A cancer diagnosis couldn’t keep a Central Washington University business student from achieving her goal of graduating and attending commencement on June 9. 

Sabrina Dominguez, 23, was a freshman at the University of Washington when she received her diagnosis on April 30, 2014. She has Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, a disease that even if you are a 60-year-old, you are still considered too young to have.  

She knew as she battled cancer and began treatment, she wanted to be closer to family who lives in Yakima, but still wanted to be able to attend college.

“Central was a perfect fit,” Sabrina said.

Sabrina has been doing treatment off and on for four years, but has never done chemotherapy or radiation. She is doing a new form of treatment called targeted therapy, where they attack specific cells. She has a panel of doctors in Seattle and travels to Yakima to receive shots in her back for the treatment.

Along with treatment, she worked two jobs at local businesses, Jerrol’s and Suncadia, to help pay for expenses and has continues to go to school full time. While her family and doctors may have preferred for her to take a break to let her body fully heal, Sabrina never took a quarter off.

“Going from a position where you feel like you’re never really sick and felt confident in what your body can do, to a position where you don’t really trust your body anymore to protect you, you just really feel a lack of control,” Sabrina said. “School has always been the one thing that I know I can do and I am in control of.”

Sabrina said she got lucky, because when she did get sick it happened at opportune times and she always received the support she needed.

For example, two years ago, Sabrina’s spleen began to rupture and she had to be on bed rest for around three months. She was working two jobs to pay for her treatment and her body couldn’t take the long hours. Jerrol’s kept her job for her while she recovered so she only would have to focus on school and recovery. When she returned, they worked with the restrictions she needed.

Sabrina says sometimes she had days where she thought about how she could be doing nothing and just focusing on treatment, but she feels humbled and blessed she was still able to work and attend school.

“I am really fortunate to be in the position that I am able to do it because a lot of times, people aren’t able to and they don’t have the choice,” she said.

Sabrina did not tell many classmates or professors about her cancer.

“I don’t look terrible and sick, so a lot of people didn’t know,” Sabrina said.

They would find out on social media where she keeps her family updated or if there was ever a situation when she needed to miss class. When there was a big assignment or exam in jeopardy, she would make sure to loop professors in and work with them to still accomplish everything.

“I get good grades and I care about my grades and I give it everything I got,” she said.

Sabrina worked hard and is accomplishing her ultimate goal of attending commencement this Saturday.

Her dream for after college was to work for a company that is positive, empowering and uplifting. She recently accepted a job with a tech start up in Redmond, Washington to join their marketing team.

As for her health, she received the exciting news that her current treatment may be putting her into partial remission. She is hopeful that one day soon she will be able to say she is in full remission.

“You have to be willing to fight for yourself,” Sabrina said.

Media contact: Chelsie Hadden, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-1457,

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