Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo by Johnathon Kelso
Eduardo Huato-Blanco persevered to graduate from Monsignor Donovan High School May 18. The Athens teen underwent several months of chemotherapy for a rare form of lymphoma during his junior year.


Athens high school celebrates cancer survivor’s graduation  

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published June 3, 2024

ATHENS—Eduardo Huato-Blanco sat among his peers at Monsignor Donovan High School, all dressed in navy-blue tasseled caps and gowns. This moment in the school gym was his north star.  

The 19-year-old was determined to receive his diploma at this independent Catholic school with the Class of 2024. Halfway through his junior year, doctors placed a temporary port in his chest as he embarked on several months of chemotherapy to treat anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  

He persevered, staying up to complete classwork during treatments at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, fighting the mental fog and unwelcome side effects he simply called awful.  

“Your eyes will be swollen. You’ll feel, like, either really cold or really, really hot,” he said.  

He wears on his finger a golden ring depicting Jesus’s face, a gift from his mom. Following his treatment, his dark hair has returned thick.   

Huato-Blanco believed he wouldn’t be walking across the gym floor to receive his diploma without the many people who supported him. A school family opened their Atlanta home to help save on hotel bills during frequent trips to the Atlanta medical center. School administrators delivered boxes full of cards from classmates to encourage him and embolden him with their prayers. Teachers visited him while he was hospitalized and devised lessons he could complete.     

“You should ask for help. Don’t try to, like, fight a battle, especially something like cancer by yourself,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t in the battle alone.”  

Kara Hatcher, the school’s enrollment director, watched Huato-Blanco graduate May 18 with pride. She knows him well.  

“He has been dreaming of the day of graduating and going to college, and it’s now here. He has been filled with nothing but gratitude for the chance (Monsignor Donovan) gave him and continued support throughout his journey at Donovan,” she said.   

The months of uncertainty and treatment profoundly shaped the school community, she said. Students learned vital lessons in compassion, community, resilience and faith, Hatcher said.  

Huato-Blanco’s treatment ended in July 2023. He will need regular checkups during the next five years to ensure the cancer stays in remission. Huato-Blanco said he wanted the senior year to be well-spent. He challenged himself to pick up a new instrument. He tried playing flute for the first time. His desire was greater than his skill, he admitted.  

Now, Huato-Blanco is looking to the future. He moves into the dorm this summer in downtown Atlanta to begin classes at Georgia State University. Nurses and doctors have become his role models, so he is leaning toward a degree in nursing.   

For Hatcher, she hoped students in the class of 2024 and others learned “to not be afraid to ask questions when they see someone suffering and offer to help in whatever capacity they can.”  

“He keeps telling me he doesn’t know how he will ever thank me,” said Hatcher. “I keep reminding him the time will come and he will have an opportunity to pay it forward to someone else.”  

Rising senior overcomes health challenges  

Monsignor Donovan High School student John Paul Abrigo underwent treatment for cancer during the same time as fellow student Eduardo Huato-Blanco.  

His treatment at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta began in early 2023, and Abrigo rejoined the school community in person shortly after Thanksgiving.  

Now a rising senior, Abrigo said he felt lifted by the many prayers of family, friends, the Filipino community and others.  

John Paul Abrigo relied upon the support of his school community at Monsignor Donovan High School to battle cancer. The rising senior hopes to attend the University of Georgia. Photo by Johnathon Kelso


Returning to school, Abrigo became actively involved in youth leadership and student government and giving speeches.  

He spoke at the school’s spring Mardi Gras fundraiser, telling school benefactors how the community embraced the two teenagers and their families. He shared how the school principal bused friends to his home during one of his most challenging times during treatment. The visit was vital to keeping spirits up, he said.   

Abrigo also has returned to ushering at his parish, St. Joseph Church, Athens.   

With a year to go, Abrigo has his sights on attending the University of Georgia. He’d like to study pharmacology, inspired by the medicine and treatment he received.  

Abrigo reflected on the spiritual lessons he learned during the difficult journey. 

“God is there with you. You may not be able to see him, but he is there with you, and he will be with you through and through,” said Abrigo. “And not only that, but people that love you, they’re always there for you, too. And that they will help you get through these hard times. You are loved and that you are strong, and you will get through this and that brighter days are ahead and that you’re crowned with God’s favor.”