Teen Cancer Survivor Finds Strength in Jewelry Design



At just 16 years old, Linda Cifuentes has certainly faced her share of hardships. She spent her ­childhood in foster care in Colombia and was finally adopted two years ago by a family in San Diego. Then in 2011, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Yet the bubbly teenager remained positive throughout aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments. She even began making her own jewelry while in the hospital, and sold her first design to her nurse. “While going through treatments, I prayed, surrounded myself with my family, and focused on making jewelry and having fun,” Linda says.

“For Linda, jewelry is a source of happiness, beauty, and inspiration,” says Carmen Cifuentes, Linda’s adoptive mother. Carmen recalls the time she took her daughter to the local YMCA to play basketball. “She showed up decorated head-to-toe in jewelry,” Carmen laughs. “The coach didn’t know what to do.”

Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Linda recently had the opportunity to meet her role model, jewelry entrepreneur Ivanka Trump, who told her to “stay true and work hard.” And thanks to a special invitation by Ivanka’s team and JCK Events, Linda attended JCK Las Vegas show in June.

The Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry team also brought Linda’s Strength in Layers necklace to life. The design, explains Carmen, symbolizes the fight to overcome adversity: The teardrop-shape emerald represents pain, and the layers of gold chains and pearls reflect life’s trials and tribulations. “Life gives you layers of challenges, but they make you stronger,” Carmen explains. The emerald is surrounded by a gold sun with 12 rays, signifying each member of Linda’s family.

The jewelry will be auctioned online with a starting bid of $36,000. One hundred percent of proceeds will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Linda also has created the Bags Full of Love program to aid other foster children who are suffering from cancer. “When I was at the hospital I received a bag with a journal and other items,” she says. “Knowing that somebody was helping me out made me happy. I want to do the same thing for other children going through a similar situation.” Ten percent of the proceeds from the jewelry sold on her website will go toward the cause.

While Linda was in New York City being mentored by Trump, she wrote down two goals on a piece of paper. “I want to design jewelry for celebrities and one day I want people to know my name,” she says. “I’m keeping my promises.”