Like any mother, Susana Catalan of Gainesville wants the best care for her children.
But it’s a matter of sweet life for her oldest child, Camila, a 10-year-old with a healthy twin sister, Prisila.
Catalan said she was worried from the moment she noticed Camila with bruising, red eyes and other strange symptoms that kept her growing more ill.
At first, the doctors “kept telling me everything was normal,” Catalan said.
How to help Camila fight leukemia
An online fundraiser has been created to raise $3,000 for the Catalan family's medical and travel expenses. Visit www.gofundme.com/zj6nw-cami-fighting-leukemia to donate.
But a later visit to the emergency room at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center revealed the diagnosis.
“That’s when they told me they suspected leukemia,” Catalan said. “My world just came crashing down. I never thought cancer would be in our family.”
Camila was diagnosed in January 2016, shortly after her eighth birthday.
Sometimes it’s better not to know certain things, but Catalan could not resist the desperate urge to learn more about the disease her child was now fighting.
“I made the mistake and I googled it,” she said. “That was really scary.”
For Camila, the gravity of her illness took some time to set in, Catalan said. But then came several rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant (Camila’s little sister was the donor).
“When her hair started falling out, that’s when she knew it was something serious,” Catalan said.
Catalan also remembers a moment when Camila saw a commercial from the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital featuring cancer-stricken children asking for support.
Catalan said Camila got the impression that kids don’t survive cancer. And yet, she did just that. She was cancer-free by September 2016.
“We got done with everything,” Catalan said. “So we thought we did.”
Fast forward nearly two years. On May 17, the leukemia was confirmed to have returned.
Camila entered Egleston Hospital in Atlanta last week for chemotherapy sessions.
“She just told me she was ready to give up,” Catalan said. “She didn’t want to go through it again.”
Family and friends have established a $3,000 online fundraiser to support medical and travel expenses for Camila’s treatment.
And Catalan said the family is considering treating Camila at the Seattle Children’s Hospital in Washington State, where a high-risk leukemia research team works.
In the meantime, Catalan said Camila’s spirits have been boosted by her determination to be a role model for her siblings.
“She looks more positive now,” Catalan said.