‘I feel I’m meant to live this life.’
At 18, Glendy Ardon gave up college to raise her three sisters. That’s only the beginning of her incredible story.

ALTERNATE TEXT HERE

A week after turning 18, Glendy Ardon, second left, agreed to raise her sisters following the death of both their parents. One of the dreams she gave up was going to college..But in May she finally graduated, with a bachelor’s degree in communications from CSUB, and will start graduate school here this fall. The four sisters are pictured at Ardon’s graduation (l to r): Gabriella Ardon, Glendy Ardon, Daniela Martinez and Alejandra Martinez.

BY CHRISTINE BEDELL
Alumni Engagement Specialist
cbedell1@csub.edu

It was in December 2014 that Glendy Ardon first started feeling sick. The 26-year-old mother of two had no energy, her head hurt and her back ached.

Over the following Spring Break, having also developed shortness of breath and chest pains, she finally made doctor’s appointments. The diagnosis: Stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, with tumors in her chest, liver, lungs, pancreas, kidney, bones and hip.

The oncologist said her prognosis was grim, but he’d try three rounds of chemotherapy. If her body didn’t react, he said, they’d have to look at other options including hospice.

“You give me a chance to fight and I will do everything on my end,” Ardon told the doctor. “What can I do on my end?”

ORPHANED BY 18

At the time of her cancer diagnosis, Ardon had already experienced more than her fair share of heartache.

Her father, Federico, died of valley fever when she was a freshman at Delano High School. It was the classic case of a man who didn’t go to the doctor until he was really sick and then went undiagnosed for months.

“It was hard because we would go visit him (in the hospital) and I could see him wither away,” Ardon remembered. “He was extremely thin, his lungs had collapsed, he had tubes sticking out of him that were draining excess fluids.”

Federico had been the easy-going parent. When Ardon failed a quiz in the 8th grade, it was from him she sought the required parental signature.

“F is for fabulous,” the Guatemala native told his little girl.

Yary, Ardon’s mother, worked in a preschool and sorted citrus to support her four young daughters after Federico’s death. Without any outside help she met all her kids’ needs, showering them with love and support at the same time.

“She just seemed so strong,” Ardon said. “She could take anything.”

Glendy Ardon's last family photo

Glendy Ardon’s parents and sisters in their last photo as a family of six. It was taken on New Year’s Eve 2002. Back row:  Gabriella Ardon, Federico Martinez, Yary Avila, Glendy Ardon. Middle: Alejandra Martinez. Front: Daniela Martinez.

Ardon had a happy, active Delano High School career. She was president of the Hispanic Student Union, volunteered at a local convalescent home, and ran cross-country and track.  She dreamed of going away to San Diego State University.

Then in April 2006, just before Ardon’s high school graduation, Yary was diagnosed with leukemia. All Ardon could think about was taking care of her mom. She skipped the prom despite having bought her ticket and dress and had to be persuaded to walk at commencement.

“Do it for yourself and for the pictures you’re going to send your mom,” a high school counselor told her.

Ardon also put off San Diego State, thinking she could go after her mom got better. But six months after her diagnosis, Yary died and Ardon assumed custody of her sisters, ages 16, 12 and 8.

She’d only turned 18 the week before.

“My aunt said, ‘I’ll take the two little ones,’” Ardon recalled. “But I said, ‘No, we’re all going home together.’”

While taking care of her sisters, Ardon worked at a local preschool and took night classes at Bakersfield College. Fortunately, the girls had good heads on their shoulders and worked well as a team,Ardon said.

Glendy Ardon and sisters

The four sisters making it on their own together (clockwise): Gabriella Ardon, Glendy Ardon, Daniela Martinez and Alejandra Martinez.

But there were tough times, sisters Gabriella Ardon and Alejandra Martinez said.

Money was extremely tight. And Ardon expected a lot from her sisters just as their mother had, and it caused her to butt heads with the rebellious Gabriella, then 16.

“She would tell us what to do. She wanted everything done perfectly. She was always right,” Gabriella said of Glendy, chuckling. “But she was good. I was the rebel.”

And Martinez, who was 12 when their mother died, would withdraw to her room. Glendy would coax her out and encourage the girls to do things together, Martinez said.

Not once did Martinez hear Glendy complain about having to become the mom.

“She never made me feel like it was a burden for her,” Martinez said. “I didn’t even realize until I was a little older that she had been offered to go to San Diego State.”

AN EXPANDING FAMILY

In 2007, Ardon met her now-husband, Luis, through friends. When she said she couldn’t go on a date with him because she had to watch her sisters, Luis took Glendy, Alejandra and Daniela to John’s Incredible Pizza.

Glendy Ardon and Luis Alejo

Glendy Ardon and her husband, Luis Alejo, at her graduation from CSUB in May.

The couple moved in together in 2008 and had their first child, a son named Jacob, at the end of that year. She worked her way up the ladder at the Delano Union School District, reaching school secretary.

Jacob wasn’t talking at the age most little boys do, but his initial assessment raised no red flags. Subsequent examinations did: Jacob was autistic. The same thing happened with Jasmine.

Having two children with autism isn’t as rare as one might think. Parents who have a child with autism have a 1 in 5 chance of having a second child with the disorder, according to an August 2011 study in the journal Pediatrics.

“I’ve been told you’re not supposed to question, you’re not supposed to be mad. But obviously those feelings do come up,” Ardon said. “But I feel I’m meant to live this life, like there’s something I’m supposed to learn.”

She believes the classes she took at Kern Regional Center on how to parent special-needs children are paying off. Jacob, 9, is now talking. Jasmine, 8, was potty-trained last year.

“My daughter will speak one day,” Ardon said, “and it will be fabulous.”

A 50/50 CHANCE

When Ardon was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2015, she feared most for her children. She knew from first-hand experience that kids need their mom.

So she fought hard, with a combination of both western and holistic medicine. She underwent two forms of chemotherapy over nine months plus adopted a vegan diet, took supplements, drank tea made of Guanabana leaves Luis bought in Mexico and tried to stay active.

Daniela took care of her when Luis was at work and Alejandra and Gabriella came over as much as possible. They would all scour the Internet for remedies.

“Throughout the whole thing I remember her telling me there was a 50/50 chance that the radiation and chemotherapy would work,” Martinez said of Glendy. “I remember her saying, ‘That’s like flipping a coin and I’m going to be on the positive side of that.’

“She was always very positive about the whole thing.”

Glendy Ardon and daughter

Glendy Ardon and her daughter, Jasmine, in September 2015, during Glendy’s battle with cancer.

But there were days Ardon endured terrible pain and Alejandra didn’t know how to comfort her. They were especially tough, Alejandra said, because she just hadn’t seen her sister like that before.

Those dark days are over now. Ardon has been cancer-free for three years. If she’s clear for another two years, she won’t have to be monitored as often as she is now.

“There will be life-long monitoring,” the doctors told her, “but after five years you can say, ‘OK, at least this cancer, we don’t see it coming back.”

BACK TO SCHOOL

Ardon always knew college was for her. Not only had her parents stressed the importance of education but at age 14 she got a taste of one alternative: picking grapes near Delano.

“It’s so tiring, you’re exposed to chemicals, you come home and you want to shower right away,” Ardon remembered. “The weather is really hot, and the breaks are not sufficient.”

Ardon therefore transferred to CSUB in the fall of 2016. Wanting a full college experience, she signed up for outdoor adventures like surfing and kayaking and joined The Runner newspaper as a reporter.

She covered both hard news and features including the dormitory budget, a student referendum and campus sexual assault.

“I got to meet people in administration and I got to get out of my shell,” she said. “That was fun.”

Jennifer Burger, a lecturer in the CSUB Communications Department and advisor to The Runner, called Ardon “the Erin Brockovich of class” because she jumped into investigative reporting and tackled meaty stories like public pay and water quality concerns in Delano.

“I was immediately like, “Glendy, you need to be a reporter!” Burger said.

Ardon also showed a heart for people, whether in stories about the work of CSUB organizations and how students could join them or by offering an ear and comfort to other Runner staffers – including Burger.

“She and I counsel each other a lot because she has two kids on the autism spectrum and we found out our son has been assessed on the spectrum as well,” Burger said. “She gave me incredible advice, for which I will always be grateful.”

Glendy Ardon grad cap

Glendy Ardon’s grad cap, dedicated to her husband and children.

In May Ardon graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications. This fall she will begin working on her master’s degree in educational counseling. She hasn’t decided what age of students she’d like to counsel, she just knows she wants to help others.

As for the three sisters Ardon raised, all are successful women now, and extremely close to one another.

Gabriella is married with two children and living in Bakersfield. Alejandra just graduated from Sacramento State with a B.A. in English Literature and Daniela is studying sciences at Fresno State.

Alejandra credits Glendy with keeping the sisters on track after their parents died, following in the footsteps of a mother who always stressed the importance of going to school.

“She was definitely the shining beacon that got us through that dark time,” Alejandra said.



CSUB Alumni Scholarship Fund

Editor's note: When you sponsor or buy a ticket to Party in the Park, our signature fall food and drink event under the sparking lights at Alumni Park, you support the CSUB Alumni Scholarship Fund.

You support alumni like 29-year-old Glendy Ardon, who on the road to graduation and now graduate school overcame losing both parents by 18, having not one but two special-needs children and battling advanced cancer.

She is one of four CSUB graduates who received a total of  $11,000 to continue their education on campus this academic year. Ardon, Tania Sedano and Lauren Galinato each received $3,500; Amani Alshaif received a $500 book scholarship.

Want to support alumni scholarships?

Donate to the scholarship fund.

Learn about Party in the Park sponsorship opporunities.