LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - "She just didn't bounce back the way she was supposed to," said Erica Jimenez about her daughter. Six year old Jaelyn Jimenez' appendix ruptured on February 7, 2008. After a week in the hospital she hadn't bounced back, by March 3rd she was re-admitted for an abscess, a complication from her appendectomy.
"She didn't want to play anymore and we knew something was wrong," added Jimenez. She kept a close eye on her daughter. She noticed bruises on her daughter's body and took her to a clinic for blood work. Once she received Jaelyn's blood work results, the doctor sent her immediately to Lubbock. Despite the hour and a half drive from their home in Portales, New Mexico to emergency room at University Medical Center, no distance was too far when it came to the health of their daughter.
Once Jaelyn was admitted, they ran tests all night and by midnight they found out it was the leukemia.
On June 11th, 2008 their daughter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
"For both me and my husband hearing your daughter has cancer... the first thing I thought is my daughter going to die," said Erica Jimenez. The very next day they met Jaelyn's doctor, Dr. Anthony Cecalupo.
"The first six months of leukemia therapy is very difficult. The whole idea is that the therapy is front loaded so you kill the leukemia," says Dr. Cecalupo.
"He said we're a team now. We are in this together I'm here for you and your daughter...you watch you're going to have a normal life," adds Jimenez saying Dr. Cecalupo calmed her anxiety about her daughter's diagnosis.
"When it first happened she didn't talk to anyone, she never said a word," says Jimenez.
Jaelyn's team at UMC all call her a princess, a princess who during treatment spent hours in her UMC castle, the playroom coloring pictures of her favorite princess, Arial. According to Jaelyn, she's her favorite because she gets to swim under the water.
"All the doctors and nurses they have all been so good to us, they make you feel like they are there for you. They still are," says Jimenez about her experience at UMC.
"I think this family has blessed us too. Even when they got diagnosed and had been through so much parts of their family donated toys to the playroom because she spent time here," says one of Jaelyn's oncology nurses Heather Donaghey.
Because of the intense chemotherapy, Jaelyn missed the first few months of Kindergarten. She didn't start until January, and missed the first half of the year. "They really wanted me to hold her back. I said no, if she's sick she won't be there," says Jimenez. But Jaelyn didn't miss a beat, and two weeks ago her family had a lot to celebrate, Kindergarten graduation. "When she walked down the line she brought me a carnation and I was crying, I think I worried her. I was just so happy for her," says Jimenez. The day after graduation the Jimenez' were back in Lubbock for blood work, every two weeks they make the drive to UMC.
"Jaelyn's doing wonderfully. She has leukemia and is in maintenance therapy. She's cruising along, no major complications or issues or anything like that," says Dr. Cecalupo.
"You just have to take it day by day because that's all you can do. It was the hardest year we've ever had and you don't think it will ever happen to you," says Jimenez. Because of her daughter's team at UMC and Children's Miracle Network, Erica and Jeremy Jimenez know they will get to watch their daughter walk across many more stages in her life.
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