My daughter Jacqueline and I were in Washington State visiting my sister, when out of nowhere she began to get these terrible headaches in the back of her head. They got so bad that I took her to the emergency room, but the doctors there told me that it was just a headache and that I should take her home. Things got steadily worse, though, and finally the pain was so bad that it started to make Jackie vomit. So I took her to the pediatrician. He thought it might be a problem with her eyes, or might be severe migraines, but just to be sure, he ordered an MRI. Two hours after the test was finished, he asked us to come back to his office, where we learned that they’d found a brain tumor during the scan. My six-year-old little girl had a brain tumor.
Jackie underwent surgery to remove the tumor right away, and a biopsy confirmed it was cancer. She was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, which would require six weeks of radiation and a year of chemotherapy every week.
Doctor’s helped me find a hospital as close as possible to our home in Texas. Every Wednesday for a year, we drove two hours to Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital in San Antonio for her chemo. Sometimes, if she got sick, we’d have to go back a second time the same day. I think that was one of the hardest things for Jackie to deal with – all the traveling. She felt so badly and it was so far away!
It was during one of her treatments that a Child Life Specialist first told me about Starlight and their Great Escapes family activities program. We signed up, and weren’t quite sure what to expect when we went to our first event – watching Santa v. The Snowman in 3D at the IMAX theater. It was great! Jackie had never been to anything like that, and it really helped take her mind off of her treatments.
Since that first event, we’ve attended Great Escapes regularly. Her favorite so far has been High School Musical on Ice! As a mom, it is such a relief to see her having fun and making friends iwth the other children. Great Escapes give her a chance to forget for a little while about all that’s happening.
I’ve been able to get to know a lot of families too – families who are dealing with the same sorts of struggles that we are. When you have a child with a serious illness, sometimes you feel very alone. Great Escapes give families a chance to get to know one other and support each other. It helps a lot to get out for a day and not have to think about the next hospitalization.
Thankfully, Jackie is now in remission, though doctors continue to keep a watchful eye on her condition. We’re very grateful that Starlight was there to help us through the scariest times, and are glad that Starlight’s Great Escapes are there to lift the spirits of families like mine.
- Starlight mom, Nadia Salazar