Before Cynthia, then 22 months old, was diagnosed with cancer, all her mother Maria knew was that cancer “wasn’t good.” So on the day in June 2005 that the oncologist told Maria and her husband that Cynthia had leukemia, she was devastated.
|Cynthia, center, poses with her family. She battled leukemia for five years before completing chemotherapy last March.|
“Back then all I knew was that leukemia was cancer, and to me, cancer was death,” Maria remembers. “I was thinking, ‘My baby is going to die.’”
Thankfully, the oncologist who diagnosed Cynthia referred her to City of Hope. And Maria says she will never forget the moment she and her family arrived.
“It was after hours when we got there,” she recalls. “That day it had been one thing after another — it had been horrible. But when we walked up to the building, there was somebody at the door waiting for us. That always stuck with me.”
The staff brought them inside, made them feel at home and from that point on, Maria recalls, “took it from there.”
Over the next five years, Cynthia spent more time getting treatment at City of Hope than most little girls ever spend at the doctor and dentist combined. But she fought through it all and finished her last round of chemotherapy in March of last year.
“She has been amazing,” says Maria. “There were times when she would be sad and say, ‘I miss home’ or ‘I miss Daddy,’ but she always understood ‘we just gotta do this.’”
Maria credits City of Hope with saving her daughter and her family’s lives. At one point, they had the opportunity to switch their daughter’s treatment to a hospital that was closer to where they lived, but Maria and her husband didn’t even have to think twice. City of Hope was where they felt comfortable.
“We felt lost in the beginning, but they helped us right away,” she says. “Throughout those years we bonded with the doctors and staff. They became like family — a home away from home.”
“They always understood our point of view, and always listened to us and guided us,” she says. “They were very proactive, and that was very reassuring.”
“To this day, any concern I have, they’re the first people I talk to.”