Cancer survivor and Bay Ridgeite Alexandra Capellini continues to strive

The sky is the limit for 19-year-old Ridgeite Alexandra Capellini.

The Poly Prep graduate was diagnosed with bone cancer at a young age, forcing her to have her right leg amputated. However, it hasn’t stopped her from flourishing in all aspects of life. Currently a sophomore at John Hopkins University, Capellini is studying public health and is thriving at the challenging studies.

Although she will always consider Bay Ridge home, Capellini is enjoying her time outside her neighborhood. “I really like Baltimore. It’s very different from New York. There’s lot of diversity in Baltimore which makes it fun to explore,” she said. “I really love college. It’s an intense school.”

Capellini looks back with fondness at her time at Poly Prep, where she always kept busy. “It was really awesome,” she told this paper. “I loved my time there too. I was pretty involved with different clubs. I wrote for the school paper and played clarinet in band.” She still plays the instrument at the John Hopkins school band.

As a senior in high school, Capellini and other students helped raise money for a small school in Cambodia. “We raised money to fund an English teacher as well as solar panels for the roof of the school. I visited there to meet the students. It really was a great experience,” she recalls. Capellini and the other seniors helped teach the students how to play instruments and soccer.

Capellini has come a long way since her initial cancer diagnosis when she was seven years old. “I was treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The first tumor I had was not cancerous, but the second one was,” she said. As a result, her leg was amputated in 2003.

As expected, Capellini initially faced some hardships following the surgery. “It took quite some time used to get used to the prosthesis. I guess middle school was hardest part, when I went back to school,” she explained. “Kids didn’t know what to make of me. They didn’t know about chemotherapy or that it’s impolite to stare at a prosthesis. Middle school is tough in general when you’re trying to figure out the social scene. It was hard not feeling as much a part of the group or understood by classmates as I wanted to.”

Thanks to the help of family, friends and staying active, however, Capellini remained upbeat. “My parents have been great through this whole experience. They reminded me that I can still have a great quality of life and pushed me to be independent,” she said. “They didn’t try to hold my hand. They tried to help me remain as active as possible. They never set limitations on me.”

Once she had her prosthesis, Capellini went to ski camp and a summer camp for amputees where she was able to meet friends who understood what she was going through. Along with playing instruments, she also rock climbs.

One of the highlights of her young life was being selected to speak at the very hospital that treated her in 2013. “Every year, Memorial Sloan-Kettering hosts a graduation ceremony to celebrate the lives of all high school seniors that have ever been treated at Sloan,” she said. “It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. It meant so much to stand with friends and peers I met from the years I spent at Sloan.”

As for the future, Capellini plans to go to medical school and study to be a pediatric oncologist. She continues to be involved in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and remains in both good health and spirit. “I’m all good,” she said. “I’m healthy. It’s definitely something I’m grateful for every day.”

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