EDCOUCH, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Childhood Cancer Day honors all the children and families experiencing the effects of the disease.
Rachel Grace Garza was 9 years old when she started experiencing random pains. Like any concerned mother, Rachel’s mom took her to the doctor to try and figure out the cause but was told the pains could just be growing pains since they had tall family members.
After a trip to an emergency room with extreme lower back pain, a blood smear would confirm the family’s worst nightmare: Rachel Grace was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“Even though we’re going through difficult times, we always found time to laugh and time to play and just have her be around her friends,” said Rachel Garza, Rachel’s mother. “As she says, ‘Mom, I love it because I can just be myself. I am not a child that has cancer. I’m just me.'”
Little Rachel talked about receiving the medical news from the doctor.
“The doctor called us and said that I had a blast in my blood. So then she, the doctor, said to tell the attendant ER doctor immediately. And the doctor came out. And he said that they were trying to find a bed at the edge of oncology. And my mom said, wait, did you just say oncology? She knew that oncology meant cancer,” Rachel Grace said.
It’s been two years since Rachel started treatment, and she is now in remission.
Rachel is excited to ring the cancer-free bell on Oct. 4 after finishing all her treatments.
She goes back to do lumbar visits every three months and continues to take medications daily. She also has returned to school at Canterbury Elementary and is able to participate in extracurriculars while still following certain precautionary measures like wearing a mask and constantly washing her hands.
“It was difficult to see her not going to school because she actually cried when school began the school year,” the mother said. “She wanted to be in school. She loves school. We’ve always instilled that school is important. And she wanted to be here. She wanted to be playing with her friends. And when she was able to come back to school, she was so excited. And that brings so much love to my heart because I see her happy happier than she has been before.”
While they had endured many hospital visits and even stayed overnight at times, the Starlight Foundation provided grace with innovative ways to still feel like a kid at heart and be able to escape reality, even if it was just for a little bit. Things like Nintendo games and softer and more fun hospital gowns helped make the hospital stays more enjoyable.
“Grace, in particular, she really likes to use the virtual reality headset on days when she’s going to have a procedure,” said Peyton Gelley, manager of Starlight families. “These headsets help her cope with the hospital experience by helping reduce her stress, anxiety, her pain. They are opportunities for fun. They give something to talk to the hospital staff about. And they’re just regular kid experiences that your kids should be having fun, you know, even though she’s in the hospital,”