In June 2015, 2 year-old Alejandra Guadalupe was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. Upon hearing this news, her parents, Moises and Angela, felt their world was falling apart but did not lose hope. Angela was expecting her second child and was only two months pregnant, she never thought that during this period her eldest daughter would be fighting for her life. This small family of Los Cabos had the opportunity to treat Alejandra close to home, in the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Unit (UHOP) at the Salvatierra Hospital in La Paz. After a year of treatment, and with a new member, this family is celebrating. We are happy to share that Alejandra was discharged for surveillance, this means that she has not presented cancer cell activity and will no longer receive chemotherapy, but will remain under medical supervision.
We interviewed Angela, Alejandra’s mother, who shares with us how was the entire process and treatment of her daughter.
What made you think that Alejandra was sick?
Ale cried a lot and did not speak. She had a persistent cough and became easily irritated. Even though she was my first child I knew something was wrong. I took her for the first time to the hospital where she remained for two weeks, however, she was discharged as she was not properly diagnosed. I still felt that something was wrong and after several studies we confirmed our worst nightmare: leukemia.
How was the whole process of her treatment?
We are very grateful that we didn’t have to go far and found treatment in La Paz. If we had been sent to Obregon or Culiacan, as people before us, I don’t know how we would have managed. Due to her type of cancer, Ale’s chemotherapies were never ambulatory and we had to stay all week. Initially we were staying at Casa Valentina, however, as my pregnancy progressed I started to need help. Thanks to our family’s support we were able to rent a small apartment behind the hospital so that my husband could stay with us in La Paz. Sometimes we had to stay longer because her platelets were down and she had temperature. Practically we lived two to three weeks in La Paz and the rest of the month in Los Cabos.
How did you receive the news of Alejandra’s discharge?
We did not expect it! Ale had just recovered from pneumonia and we were just thinking that we will never be out of the hospital. When you least expect it, everything changes for good. We are very grateful to all the medical staff of the Secretary of Health and the foundations that supported us. Thanks to them, during this difficult year we did not have to worry about paying for anything.
Did Alejandra understand what was going on?
Ale knew she was sick, but never got used to it. Each chemotherapy she kicked trying to avoid the needle. The medical team was surprised at her strength being so small. Ale is very mature, quiet but always analyzing. “Do I no longer have leukemia?” -were her first words in the car ride back home after we received the news. We continue to visit the hospital for monthly check-ups, and Ale still doesn’t believe that we don’t have to stay there. When seeing that we are making a small suitcase and not a big one as we used to do, she gets excited.
How is your life today?
During her treatment, Ale learned to cut and color in the UHOP classroom. She gets her backpack ready and plays as if she has to go to school. She is very excited to start kindergarten. As her father is a baker, she also likes cooking. They cook bread together. Sometimes she worries about her little sister, because she sees her cry and asks us if she also has cancer.
Angela shared with us how the day of Ale’s 2nd birthday, just before she was diagnosed, it was the anniversary of Casa Valentina’s inauguration, a gift they didn’t know that they would soon need. Casa Valentina is a shelter for children with cancer and their mothers where they are provided with food and lodging while in treatment at the Salvatierra Hospital in La Paz.
Los Cabos Children’s Foundation supports the pediatric oncology program by providing staff training, salaries, equipment for the UHOP, funds to other NGOs to cover transportation costs for families, and providing funds for workshops for the moms and children at Casa Valentina and the hospital.