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Heroes Don’t Always Wear Capes, Sometimes They Live in the Hearts of Children

Full Name: Anna Ricafort Mendoza
In Honor of: Samar Mendoza
Relationship: Daughter
Type of Cancer: Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Instagram: @samarstrong

Samar had just celebrated her 2nd birthday.

I picked her up from daycare on a Monday and our daycare provider asked me about a bump on her cheek. Was it a bug bite? Did she fall over the weekend? I tried recollecting, but knew that she would have definitely let us know if she had fallen and hit her face. I took her to her pediatrician the next day and after a series of visits with multiple pediatricians over the course of two weeks, we were referred to to see a specialist.

A morning appointment, turned into a day-long visit complete with unexpected PET scans and procedures. The end result: they found a MASS. They would need to do a biopsy, more procedures.

That one biopsy turned into four. She was put under each time. She would be so frightened when they would put the mask over her face and cry until she fell asleep. Nothing like sending your child off to a procedure.

We were told they found spots in her cheek, her spleen, her rib and her lymph node. It was a series of starts and stops every time. Four biopsies finally resulted in a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia. Of the two leukemias for children, she had the more rare of the two. And even more rare, it presented in her cheek.

She — we — would live in the hospital for six months of an intense chemotherapy protocol. She wouldn’t be allowed to return home as the distance was too far and too risky should something happen while she was away from the hospital. She couldn’t even step out for fresh air because of all the construction going on around the hospital — too risky for her respiratory system.

With every port change, a team of at least four to six people had to hold her down. She was always so scared, yet so brave when she submitted to all the poking and prodding that had to be done to her. She always complied and held out her arm or finger so the nurses could get what they needed.

She had just celebrated her 2nd birthday, and was diagnosed only two weeks later. We made a life in the hospital, gained an extended family from our nurses, medical team, child life specialists and social worker. It was never ever a place we thought we would find ourselves, but our little girl persevered. Some days were good, and some, not so good.

But we’re thankful that she is in her second year of remission and hope that she continues down the road of full recovery. Please keep her in your thoughts, prayers, and/or intentions.

She’s a tough little cookie and she kicked cancer’s butt.

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