A beloved biology teacher at Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista has been diagnosed with stage four cancer.
Priscilla McClain Soto, 31, has been away from teaching and undergoing treatment for the past few months.
McClain’s mother and sister spoke with NBC 7 about the moments their family learned she would be battling stage four cancer in her 30s.
“You’re gonna fight this and you’re gonna beat it. I promise. Don’t worry,” said Giana Loyo, Priscilla’s older sister, recalling her first words to her sister after her diagnosis.
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“From that moment all of us...her immediate family…we started almost living an out-of-body experience,” said Mary Lou Soto, McClain’s mother.
Her family says she was diagnosed in September of 2021. Several doctors misdiagnosed the problem for a year, telling her the symptoms were a result of allergies or stress.
In 2020, McClain started having unusual abdominal pain and discomfort.
“Nausea, vomiting…extreme, extreme tiredness to the point where she had to leave her class a few times and get a substitute,” said Soto.
Given McClain’s young age and healthy lifestyle, her family says the last thing on their mind was cancer.
“The love and support from everyone around her are what keeps her going every day,” said her mother.
McClain’s students and fellow teachers have been rooting for her recovery, describing her as a devoted, passionate teacher.
“I know her students miss her…we miss her tremendously,” said Jennifer Ekstein, a teacher at Bonita Vista High School.
“She has that unflappable optimism, that spirit that just can’t be dimmed by anything,” added Joseph Szakovits, another teacher.
The school started a GoFundMe to help cover her unexpected medical bills.
Her sister says the fundraiser has provided not only financial support but also emotional: “Reading the comments on her GoFundMe [...] that energy and support have lifted her up so much.”
The family shared McClain is now undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. She hopes to get back to teaching by Spring.