When she is older, María wants to be "a nurse and a star in her free time".
"María was 5; she looked pale and her paediatrician, in her usual efficient way, ordered a blood test as a safety measure. The day the tests were made, they called us saying we were to take her immediately to the "Niño Jesús" Hospital in Madrid to repeat the tests as something had alarmed the health service laboratory.
That very night, October 15, 2009, we were admitted into Oncology. The diagnosis: "Leukaemia". Two days later it was confirmed that she had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) and so began the chemotherapy treatment. There were to be 5 cycles of approximately one month and it was to last about six months.
For the parents, the first 48 hours are hell, that is the truth of the matter, and one has to live through it. Once we had overcome the shock, we were grateful to be living close to a hospital such as the "Niño Jesús", so well equipped for this type of disease. People arrived there from all over Spain. The oncology team is wonderful; doctors; nurses; assistants; and volunteers, are all amazing professionals. Although one is going through such a vulnerable time, they manage to make you have faith in humans. From the very beginning, they took control of everything whilst you followed their instructions trying to come to terms with the fact that you are living through one of the most terrible nightmares that can happen to a parent. The excellent medical team tried to reassure us: there is a treatment for this disease and, should it be necessary, there is still the option of a marrow transplant".
Shortly after, we learnt more details of her illness, it was type M2 with translocation 8;21. Basically the M2 meant that, if there were no complications, a bone marrow transplant would not be necessary; she could be cured just with chemotherapy. Translocation 8;21 meant that once the disease was cured, she was not likely to suffer a relapse, although there was nothing to guarantee that either. With this positive news, we could not help but give thanks for the luck we were having. Many others were not so lucky. We tried to be as positive as possible to keep María happy and to enable her small body to fight with all its might against the disease. This was not difficult because she is very good natured which made it easier for us to endure the situation.
We used to make thousands of handicrafts, during Halloween we decorated her room, at Christmas it was like a Christmas market, she dressed up; we made video recordings of all the fun things performed by the nurses and volunteers on our floor. We carried out interviews and she would tell me all about her life in hospital, she talked about "her" nurses, doctors, and teachers and all about the things she did; this was so that she could have it all as a souvenir. She used to celebrate weddings for Barbie and she gave ballet lessons (she was the teacher), she sang, painted nails in her beauty salon and on the days she felt tired, she would stay in bed, motionless, quietly watching TV, a break that her body needed. We tried to get as much as possible out of this situation. Why not? María was being taken care of perfectly and was surrounded by wonderful people. Her schoolteacher used to come every week and played with her for the whole of the afternoon. We stayed in hospital for 6 months, except for the 3 times they sent us home (5 days each time).
We were practically always isolated, that is why María was not able to enjoy the many activities laid on by the hospital, in the theatre and on the Floor. Even so, she was happy and was loved by all those around her. Her younger brother of 4 had a far worse time: he was at school and home, missing the other half of his family.
We were very lucky the chemo went well, there were no complications and she had no uncontrolled infections, thanks to the meticulous care of her doctors, together with some good luck. María never complained and she managed to overcome cheerfully and with joy the challenge of how to amuse herself during the six months in a hospital room. She is now in complete remission and taking no medication; for the time being, we have monthly tests and, periodically, revisions of the bone marrow to see whether it is still in remission.
It's been several months since her diagnosis and María has been able to return to school and go to city summer camp. We are very grateful to all the wonderful people, professionals and volunteers, who have gone along with us during this difficult journey and, at times, have even had to carry us in their arms (thank you, we'll never forget you!)."
Help people like María by becoming a member of the cure for leukaemia and haematological malignacies, HERE. You will help us to continue our research so that one day these diseases will be 100% curable. With only a little you can do so much. Thank you!
Find out more about bone marrow donation, HERE