By Matt Szabo
10:18 PM PDT, July 16, 2014
As a rising junior tennis player, Corona del Mar resident Alex Reyna has a rigid training schedule at Advantage Tennis Academy in Irvine.
Sometimes Reyna supplements this by carrying around his sister, Noelle. As triplets along with their sister, Paige, Alex and Noelle always have had a special bond. He's happy to carry her around, if there are steps or she's feeling weak.
"Weight training," Alex said, though he wishes Noelle was strong enough to always walk on her own.
Noelle, 15, has been fighting cancer for the past year. She was diagnosed as having T-cell lymphoma, said her mother, Pam.
Troy Reyna, who is a pediatric surgeon at Children's Hospital of Orange County, was the one who saw a lump on his daughter's neck last summer. He took her in for testing, and the family got the bad news. Noelle had to undergo chemotherapy, when she should have been preparing for her freshman year at Sage Hill School, where Paige plays tennis.
"Her biggest heartbreak, other than getting cancer, is missing her freshman year at Sage," Pam Reyna said. "That's the thing that has bothered her the most. She's very excited about going back for her sophomore year. The biggest challenge will be staying well, not getting sick from germs that every kid gets. A little virus for us might put her in the hospital for a little bit, but she's strong. She just wants to get back to somewhat of a normal life. She hasn't known normal for a year, so she wants to be a teenager again."
Noelle has been doing better and her long-term prognosis is "excellent," Pam said, but it's a delicate balance. In May, Noelle caught pneumonia, and had to spend a month in the hospital. But she is gaining weight and getting stronger.
Alex took his sister to Sage Hill's winter formal dance. She itches to get back to some of her favorite activities, like kayaking, swimming and biking.
Noelle's friend, Harry Hudson, is a musician who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma last year. Hudson, whose cancer is now in remission, released a single in April, "Learn 2 Love," that talks about dealing with cancer. Noelle is in the music video for the song, for which proceeds go to benefit the American Cancer Society.
Noelle's cancer has been a lot for the whole family to overcome, but Alex seems to have found strength in the situation.
"You get kind of depressed and you don't really feel like doing much," he said. "You kind of just want to be around her a lot, and you're always worried. But I found out that if she's happy, then the rest of my family is going to be pretty happy. The mood in our house is just positive, and it makes everyone feel better."
Last week, Alex encountered disappointment as Noelle caught a virus. She's had to go in to the hospital every day since, getting IV fluid. Alex said his head wasn't really in his semifinal match at the "War by the Shore" tournament, which he lost.
But it's a new week and a new tournament for Alex Reyna, who is the top seed in the boys' 16s at the 21st annual Costa Mesa Summer Junior Classic. He easily took care of business Wednesday, beating Matthew Floyd of Santa Ana, 6-0, 6-1 in a round of 16 match at Costa Mesa Tennis Center.
Reyna, who moved to Newport Beach from Las Vegas two years ago, advances to Thursday's quarterfinals. He'll play No. 6-seeded Joshua Yoo of Irvine at 10:30 a.m. Win that match, and Reyna will have a semifinal match at 2:30 p.m.
Reyna has had good results recently, winning singles tournaments in Santa Ana and Laguna Niguel. He'd like to add Costa Mesa to that list.
"I just aged up [to the 16s], so I'm still not ranked very high," he said. "It would a good opportunity to get my ranking up, get into these bigger tournaments. It would be a good boost of confidence."
If he needs that, he can also just think of the strength being shown every day by his sister.
•Another local still alive in singles as the Costa Mesa Summer Junior Classic is Corona del Mar resident JP Day, in the 12s. Day defeated Chase Thompson of Mission Viejo, 7-6, 6-1, in a quarterfinal match Wednesday. He plays No. 3-seeded Cory Pham of Irvine in the semifinals Thursday at noon.
Danielle Willson of Newport Beach and partner Katherine Nguyen of Fountain Valley are the top seed in girls' 14 doubles. They have a semifinal match against Natalie Arnold of Alabama and Katie Yamin of New York on Thursday at 3 p.m. Newport Beach residents Isabella Gerken and Kayden Fogarty are in the other girls' 14 doubles semifinal, against Jordyn Boothroyd and Kayti Luu of Irvine, at 3:30 p.m.
Newport Beach's Lauren Friedman is in a girls' 12 doubles semifinal with partner Milana Molnar of Ladera Ranch. They play Megan Cuan of Yorba Linda and Sarah Sandoval of Guadalajara, Mexico at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.