FAIRFIELD — Elissa Prusso has some reflections on her graduation from Rodriguez High School garnered from hard experience.
“Even though you go through things in life, if you put your eyes on something, you can get it done, no matter what you go through,” Prusso said.
That might, at first glance, sound like a typical graduation ceremony sentiment. But Prusso speaks these words as one who has been through the fire. During her junior year, she dealt with the illness and death of her mother, 45-year-old Renee Prusso.
Renee Prusso was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. Still, to Elissa Prusso, all looked as if it would turn out well.
“She got chemo, she still went to work, it didn’t feel like a big deal,” Elissa Prusso said.
Then Renee Prusso began experiencing back pain in 2012. She asked Elissa Prusso to drive her to the NorthBay Medical Center emergency room. Elissa Prusso, who had her learner’s permit at the time, did so.
Renee Prusso was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in August of that year, meaning the cancer had spread to other parts of the body.
Elissa Prusso at the time lived with her mother and siblings, her parents being divorced. She was the oldest among her siblings, which included her 13-year-old sister, 12-year-old brother and 9-year-old sister. She would need to help out with the family.
She decided to take independent study so she could remain at home. Her mother died Dec. 9, 2012. Elissa Prusso and her siblings now live with her father and grandparents.
“My original plan was to take off the first semester,” Elissa Prusso said. “I was going to go back second semester if she was better. Since she passed away, I decided it would be better for me to help my grandparents and dad with the kids.”
She needed time to heal, as well, and continued in independent study for the rest of her junior year. But she returned to Rodriguez High School for her senior year.
“It’s better than staying at home and just thinking about everything,” Elissa Prusso said. “I pretty much went back to school to get my mind off things – and because it’s my senior year.”
Helping to care for her mother put her on a career path. Elissa Prusso wants to be a nurse. She plans to go to Solano Community College or Napa Community College and ultimately transfer to Sonoma State University.
She recently started on that path, after earning her high school diploma.
“I knew I was going to graduate,” Elissa Prusso said.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.