The Stories of Fighters: Allison’s story of rare cancer in a new country
Written by Wendy Cardenas
Child: Allison Cardenas
Cancer: Primary Intracranial Sarcoma
Mother: Wendy Cardenas
“My daughter Allison is 9 years old, and was born in Ecuador on 07/28/2014. Since she was little she was always a playful, fun, lively, intelligent, participatory, loving girl, and she really likes to dance. We arrived in this country a year and a half ago on 12/03/2022, I immediately put her in school, so that she could become familiar with this educational system and the language. A quiet year passed between school, games, her dance class, trips to the parks, trips to see the city, making new friends and adapting to her new life.
Then the symptoms began. First she started vomiting, then days later the headaches began. So on 05/13/2023 I took her to the emergency room at the Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital to have tests done.
Two hours later I received the news that no parent would ever want to hear in their life…their daughter has a brain tumor called Primary Intracranial Sarcoma which is causing the cerebrospinal fluid to not carry out its normal process and stagnate on the right side of her head which is causing her headaches (at that time I didn’t understand any of those medical terms, I had to research, study, and read).
From then on our life is a constant journey of medical appointments, hospitals, exams, therapies, chemotherapies, [and now] radiotherapy. Since her operation, [a couple months] have passed and we have experienced various feelings such as denial, fear, sadness, guilt, anger, hope, etc.
At the same moment that the doctor was telling me the news, I felt that something was running through my body at a thousand miles an hour. I started to cry, I got nervous, fear invaded me, I felt anxious, disoriented, you ask yourself a thousand questions. You even get to the point of resisting believing. [No] parent is prepared to receive bad news [about] your children.
[After the doctor told me the news], I was very troubled, thinking a thousand things. The first of which was how to break the news to her father and my parents. First, I called her father and told him. He remained silent and asked me, “Are you sure, Allison never presented any symptoms of anything before”, so I made him participate in the meeting with the neurology staff. Upon listening to them, he decided to travel immediately from Ecuador to be with her in the tumor removal operation. When my mother arrived, I told her as well. She told me “It can’t be, let’s go somewhere else.” Just like me, she refused to believe.
Then I had to explain to my daughter what cancer was, because I had never talked to her about that disease. It was and still is complicated, because they ask question after question, such as…”What is cancer?”, “ Why did it happen to me?”, “Is it going to hurt?”, “Is my hair going to fall out?”, “Am I going to be cured?”. Thank God my daughter has understood and has known how to handle it calmly. Of course there are hard days, but she manages to calm down.
[For all those wondering if you should support, please do] because people who experience the disease suffer not only physically, but also emotionally, including their families. Life changes us, it changes even our perspective on life, and many of us have to stop working to be able to care for our children. That support can not only be economic, but it can also be with works, words of encouragement, with prayers, being more empathetic, more supportive, because each person lives a daily struggle.
The most valuable support I have received so far has been the mercy of God. I am a great believer in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and in the Blessed Virgin Mary. [Additionally], the support of my husband who, without thinking and with pain, had to quit his job in Ecuador to spend more time with us. The support of my parents who went to the hospital every day, brought us food. The support of the bosses where I worked who tell me that they still have a position for me when I can return. The support of some people that I have met throughout this year in this city and who have encouraged me. The support of the rest of my family and my friends who have been generous and have sent a message of encouragement.
To all the people who do support [kids with cancer], like the foundations, thank you…a thousand thanks!”
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