Her smile remained…
We are the Torres Family, party of 5. Starting out as a table for two back in 1995, in 2006, we welcomed our first child, Jadon, after struggling for almost 8 years with infertility. Shockingly, our daughter, Amaris, was born just 17 months after Jadon in the Fall of 2007. In 2008, we suffered a miscarriage before our youngest child, Gabriella, would come into our family in the Fall of 2009. The name Gabriella means "God is my strength". Always unafraid, she was so brave and daring in all she ever did. This proved to be one of the most remarkable and incredible parts of our journey.
Gabriella was such a bright and smart baby. She reached her milestones much sooner than our first two had. We considered this such a blessing, as we had been told during our pregnancy that she was possibly a Down's syndrome baby. We never expected to face such an ugly monster later on, or that the most terrifying fight of her life would come at such an early age.
On March 16th, 2015, five year-old Gabriella was sent to the hospital for further testing from her pediatrician's office. We took her in when we noticed she was unable to walk straight or balance herself as she stood up. We also noticed she was tilting her head when she watched TV, or when trying to look at and focus on something. The previous week, she had complained about having a headache when she woke up in the morning.
Once we arrived at the hospital, we were fast-tracked and taken in pretty quickly. After the initial exam from an ER doctor, a CT scan was ordered. A few hours later, the neurologist came in to give us some grave news. The scan revealed that our once healthy and normal child, who had never before been to the hospital for anything other than a minor fall, had a brain tumor. This tumor was located on our child’s brain stem, and there was nothing that could be done to remove it.
An MRI the next day confirmed the diagnosis, and opened our eyes to the world of pediatric brain cancer. Not only was the tumor on her brain stem, but it was diffused, meaning the tumor was intertwined with healthy cells, making removal impossible; it was a Diffused Instrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG. If you dare to research DIPG, you will find story after story of heartbreak and pain. There are about 250 children diagnosed with this tumor yearly in the United States alone. Surgery is not an option. The only option we were given was radiation for about six weeks, an oral chemo drug normally given to adults, and the possibility to participate in ongoing clinical trials which may or may not help her at all.
We underwent treatment at the Children's Hospital of San Antonio. Gabriella completed the six weeks of radiation, along with the the oral chemo drug taken concurrently. Her first post-radiation MRI in June, 2015, revealed the tumor had shrunk over 60%. By mid-May, Gabriella was walking again. By the end of June, and her Make-A-Wish Disney trip, she was running and enjoying the summer. We had an amazing two months. Still, in July, we started seeing some symptoms that were concerning to us.
In August, an MRI confirmed our fears: her tumor had spread into her cerebral spinal fluid. Doctors were concerned, and worried that she would not survive much longer because symptoms were progressing quickly. She went through 11 more rounds of radiation to her spine in hopes of slowing down the progression in her cerebral spinal fluid. However, due to the spread that had occurred, she was no longer able to walk.
After 17 days in the hospital, we were back home, things were stable, and we adjusted to our new normal. Gabriella started kindergarten on August 24th. No new symptoms appeared and she was attending school for half days. She loved school and was enjoying life.
We celebrated her sixth birthday on October 24th with a Frozen Christmas Birthday celebration. She turned six years old on October 30th.
On Friday, November 6th, Gabriella woke up with difficulty breathing. Despite fighting as hard as she could, Gabriella's fight against DIPG was coming to its end. We are thankful that no other symptoms arose other than her breathing difficulties, and sadly, she passed away on Saturday, November 7, 2015 at 5 A.M. Her smile will live with us forever, and we will remember her, especially every time we see a rainbow in the sky.