MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Daniela Hoyos looks like a typical 12-year-old, but she has an alter-ego.
By day, she’s a student at St. John Neumann Catholic School.
By night, she’s “Cancer Survivor Girl”, and this Super Girl is using her survival story to help others.
“I really wanted to help other kids because I love speaking,” Daniela said in her first YouTube video one year ago. “I love talking to other kids about my experience.”
For Daniela, that experience started about 5 years ago, when she was just seven years old.
“All I knew at that point was I’m going through surgery because for months before that I had been congested. Not your cold congestion. No. I could not breathe. I had headaches. I’d go to soccer games and I couldn’t breathe,” she told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana.
But what should have been a routine procedure to implant ear tubes turned into a frightening diagnosis.
“This lady came in and she said, ‘Hi, my name is Bethanny’ and she said ‘I’m going to teach you about cancer.’ I said, ‘Okay, I already know what cancer is.’ I had Bella Rodriguez Torres, she was in my class. So I had a brief idea of what was going on. She showed me a Charlie Brown cartoon of a little kid with leukemia. I was just like, ‘what does this have to do with me?'”
Daniela didn’t have leukemia, but she did have lymphoma.
She underwent six months of often grueling chemotherapy and was treated at Baptist Hospital, but managed to keep up with her school work and was eventually deemed “cancer-free.”
“I remember thinking, this is my opportunity to be a normal kid again,” she said. “I can go to school again. I can do my First Communion.”
She did all that, but then she wanted to do more.
“I enjoy being able to express myself and make a difference. Someone suggested to me, why don’t you do a YouTube channel,” she explained. “I had a selfie stick, tripod combination, and I plugged in my iPod touch and I started recording.”
Her videos are geared toward a younger audience, with topics like “5 fun things you can do while you’re in the hospital or getting chemo.”
She wants to give childhood cancer patients someone to relate to.
“I remember sitting in meetings with my mom, with a bunch of words I did not know what they meant,” she said. “So it’s my way of saying, ‘I know this is scary. You’re not understanding what’s going on’.”
But Daniela understands, and has even managed to find a purpose in the process.
“This event has changed my life for the better. I want to use that experience to help others,” she said.
Daniela says he wants to become an oncologist or a pediatric oncology nurse.
Through her work with the Live Like Bella Foundation, she recently attended the International Cancer Advocacy Network (iCAN) Global Summit, where she was awarded for being part of the “Most Inspiring Team”.