Age: 15 Years
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
Diagnosis: Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma
How is it that some smiles seem to radiate from within? How is it that a smile like this belongs to a 15-year-old who has endured 20 months of cancer treatment?
20 months of cancer treatment is what has followed several weeks of extreme worry and helplessness for Nayeli and her mom, Graciela. Living in Phoenix, Ariz., Nayeli was a bright 7th grader who loved roller skating and shopping with friends when a little bump on her collarbone began causing pain. This irritation was soon followed by no appetite, no energy and fevers every night. Something was wrong.
During the visit with Nayeli’s pediatrician, the doctor heard something odd in her lungs and immediately ordered a biopsy. Three days later, they learned the cause of Nayeli’s symptoms: Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks lymphatic cells in the immune system, leaving the patient extremely vulnerable to other diseases.
Nayeli’s mom was working but with no health insurance, every visit came out-of-pocket. The ability to do this came to a crashing halt with the diagnosis. Borrowing the necessary money to gain admittance to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Nayeli was in-patient for a month before being required to leave when cost estimates of the life-saving treatments she needed ran up to $500,000.
Facing the kind of choices no parent wishes to face, Graciela accepted the direction offered by a social worker. Selling all their belongings and leaving friends and family behind, their journey began anew in Seattle, landing them at the doorstep of Seattle Children’s and the House.
Nayeli remembers her first impression of the House. “In Arizona, they told us the House would be just like a hotel, with a room. But it’s not. It feels like a home.” Neither Nayeli nor her mom can say enough about the House.
Nayeli is undergoing a bone marrow transplant this month, a procedure that may ultimately enable her body to conquer the cancer. As for the origin of Nayeli’s glowing smile, it may lie with the gratitude she and her mom feel every day. “Everything here is connected,” Graciela says. “The House managers, the volunteers…we were received here and nobody asked us ‘how are you going to pay the rent? It has been a gift from God.’ “We will go visit our friends in Arizona when we can,” Graciela continues. “But Seattle has given me my daughter’s life back. This is our home now.”