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Former Liberty soccer star is in remission

The Madera Tribune

Aramel Villa.


In May, Aramel Villa was in an apartment in Florida after a workout with the semi-pro Florida Roots Futbol Club and noticed something wrong — his leg swelled up so much that he had to go to the emergency room.

“One practice, I got a dead leg, basically,” said Villa, a 2020 graduate from Liberty High School. “I got hit on my thigh and the next morning, it was super big. It swelled up so much. I went to the emergency room. They did a bunch of tests and they thought it was going to be compartment syndrome. He also saw my blood levels were super high. They sent me over to the main hospital. They kept taking blood work to find out why my blood levels were so high. I was seen by an orthopedic surgeon for my leg. He said it was only a 30 percent chance it was compartment syndrome, but he wanted to keep me overnight to see if I had it. If I had it, they would need to do surgery to keep my leg. Even then, they wanted to keep me overnight so an oncologist could see me.”

So imagine you’re Villa. You are on the other side of the country, away from your parents, away from your friends, trying to sleep and wondering what is wrong with your leg. Then, he got a diagnosis he didn’t think was coming.

“In the morning, I talked to the oncologist and they said I had myeloid leukemia,” he said. “I was a little worried, especially since I was by myself. My parents flew in, too. They came and the doctor gave me medicine to start treatment. My treatment is different. I take pills every night instead of chemotherapy. Thankfully, I don’t have a reaction to the medicine.”

Villa was on the flight the next day to come back to California and begin treatment.

“That day in Florida, we made calls and found an oncologist in California. I flew back the next day and started treatments right away,” he said.

Originally, Villa, who played for the Fresno Pacific University men’s soccer team, planned to play with the Florida Roots over the summer.

“One of my friends found a team in Florida,” he said. “He emailed them to see if he could try out. I emailed them to try out, too. Me and my teammate drove to Florida for a try out. We ended up making the team. We went over there and got an apartment. We lived in Florida. This was like a summer thing. Our last game was July 10, but I had to come home earlier than that. I was going to stay over there for three months playing soccer until he league ended. Then, come home and play at FPU and maybe go back. It was just a summer thing.”

However, because Villa’s family has a history of leukemia, his parents flew out from Madera to Florida when the doctor got on the phone with them.

“I was on the phone and one of the doctors came over and said we have a history of leukemia in the family,” he said. “My mom heard that and got scared. They both wanted to be with me.”

All of this occurred within a 72 hour period — from when he got hit to when he returned to Madera.

“I got hit, woke up, went to the doctor, stayed the night, my parents came the next day and left the next morning,” he said. “It sucked being by myself in the hospital.”

Villa arrived back home in May. While he was going through treatments, his team posted a get-well video in June that has been viewed almost 2,000 times.

“That was awesome. I didn’t know they were doing it. It was a surprise,” he said.

Currently, Villa is recovering and he said he’s almost in remission. So much so that he has started workouts again to play with the FPU soccer team in the fall.

“The first month, I just did treatments and got blood work done weekly,” he said. “I was going to the doctor regularly. I asked my doctor when I could work out. My white blood cell counts and platelets were super high. White blood cells are usually 10,000, but mine were 1 million. They had to really calm down so my doctor didn’t want to give me any activities to hurt myself. If I hurt myself, I could swell up again. I was just relaxing and being in family.

“My doctor told me that my blood was almost back to normal. I was told I was going to be in remission, but I’m not there, yet. Ever since then, I could do what I want.”

Basically, Villa is back to normal getting ready to play at FPU, if his doctors will let him.

“Everything is, basically, back to normal. I don’t know if I’m able to start playing for FPU,” he said. “I got a few minutes last year. It was awesome to play at the next level. It’s so different than high school.”

“All thanks to God, I’m okay right now. I can’t anything for granted.”

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