On June 29, 2005, at the age of 22 months, Cynthia was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Pre-B cell ALL. She completed her treatment in August 29,2007, exactly two years and two months later.
On October 25, 2007, just two months after receiving her last dose of chemotherapy, we received news that she relapsed. This time, the leukemia was found only in her CNS (central nervous system). Two years and four months later, on March 4, 2010, Cynthia successfully completed her second treatment.
After completing her second treatment, Cynthia was happy, healthy, and thriving. She learned how to swim, she learned to play piano and guitar, and she played softball. On October 11, 2011, she even became a BIG sister, something she had always wanted to be...
We had a bit of a scare in the summer of 2012, she ended up having appendicitis and got her appendix removed immediately. But compared to what she had endured for over 4 years, having her appendix removed was cake!
After completing her treatment in 2010, she continued to be monitored by her wonderful doctors at City of Hope. We went from going to bi-weekly to quarterly clinic visits a year. And on March of last year (2013), she made it into the Survivorship Program at City of Hope. Life couldn't have been any more "normal" and perfect, she even became a big sister again in November of 2013. She once described the arrival of her baby sister as "pop goes the weasel, then came Victoria."
Sadly, our world came crashing down yet again on Friday, February 21, 2014, after Cynthia suffered a seizure at home. It was a partial complex seizure. She was taken to our local emergency, where she had another seizure. CT scan showed some swelling in the left frontal lobe of the brain and after giving the emergency room doctor her complete medical history, he had Cynthia transferred by ambulance to City of Hope. At COH she had a bone marrow biopsy and spinal tap done to rule out a leukemia relapse. She also had an MRI of the head and spine to rule out tumors. The bone marrow and spinal fluid came back clear and the MRI didn't show any solid tumors, just the swelling remained. We were sent home and asked to come back in two weeks for a repeat MRI in hopes that the swelling would decrease and we'd get better images from the MRI. However, the second MRI showed no improvement, and the plan for a brain biopsy was set in place. On March 25 Cynthia underwent a brain biopsy and an hour and a half into the surgery, we were called into a meeting room. In that meeting room, the neurosurgeon told us that he found a brain tumor and that it appeared to be a stage 3 or 4. To say we were devastated would be an understatement- we were numb. Two days later, the full pathology report was out and we were asked to meet again with Cynthia's doctors, our nurse practitioner, our ICU nurse, and social worker. It was there and then that we were told that Cynthia had a very aggressive type of tumor called Anaplastic Astrocytoma, WHO grade 3, that it was inoperable, and her prognosis was a year to a year in a half of life. During this time, Cynthia was 10 years old, old enough to understand or want to know what was happening, but she never questioned anything, she went along with it. As parents, we could not bear to utter the words of her prognosis, so we told her she had a tumor and she needed treatment, that's it... again, she went along with it. Looking back, I would do things differently but at the time it is what felt right. After they gave us the final diagnosis, it was clear that treatment options were very few and actually, we only had a couple that would buy Cynthia more time. We decided that she would get radiation treatment to shrink the tumor as much as possible and she would also receive chemo along with it. We tried to keep things normal as much as possible at home and she insisted that she would go back to school vs. being homeschooled. We made countless trips to Disney, which was her favorite place, we took trips to the beach, we watched musicals, we went to see her favorite artist Katy Perry in concert, we even made it to DisneyWorld, and Cynthia got to be a part of her big sister's wedding, which was something that was so special to her. A year flew by, and it was around that time that we started to see a slow decline in Cynthia. She stopped using the right side of the body. With radiation and chemo not being an option anymore, we turned to TTF treatment. For TTF treatment to work, she needed to shave her head so the electrical cap can be placed on the scalp. As parents, we were seeking to buy more time, but TTF therapy was not successful. Two months later, on June 29th just before midnight, Cynthia took her last breath and was declared dead after midnight on June 30, 2015. Ray and I have been incomplete since then. We live with the horror of watching our daughter slip away and out of this world. We had to leave her precious body behind and walk out of the hospital with an empty wheelchair.
Ray and I continue to do everything in our power to keep Cynthia's memory alive and we strive to make her proud. She was so kind, sweet, thoughtful, smart, beautiful and so incredibly brave. She endured so much at such a young age. Even when we, her parents, finally had enough courage to tell her her fate, she worried for us. For the first time since her seizure, she wept and she said to us "I'm sad to see you so heartbroken... and for my sisters, what will they think when they're older?" How could we have been so lucky to have had such an amazing and brave daughter? Through our tears and our sorrow, we thank God because He sent her to us and is keeping her till we all meet again. Until then, we remain #Cynthiastrong