Described by her mother, Rosa, as a cheerful and sassy force to be reckoned with, Zoey was a 7-year-old child who began expressing interest in cheerleading at the time.
When she began experiencing episodes of paleness, rashes, fever and pains, her mother took her to the doctor. At first, it seemed to be signs of growing pains or a viral infection. But one day during cheerleading practice, Zoey took a fall while attempting a somersault. A few days later, she began to complain of pains in her neck, back and legs. Rosa took Zoey to the hospital to get an x-ray. The x-ray presented a compressed spinal fracture, which according to the doctor, didn’t seem to be new. Concerns grew and Rosa decided to seek other tests, including an MRI.
By the time Zoey turned 8 years old, she had already undergone numerous tests at different hospitals. Soon thereafter, Rosa received the devastating news that no parent ever wants to hear. Zoey was diagnosed with stage four high-risk neuroblastoma, a cancerous tumor that develops in the nervous system of young children. They were told it was all over.
Zoey’s tumor had spread, covering most of her spine and 99% of her bone marrow, which explained the compressed spinal fracture from the original x- ray. The tumor was so big that it was compressing her spine and causing pain in other parts of her body. Immediately, Zoey was admitted to the hospital.
The tumor was in an area which would have caused Zoey to become paralyzed from the waist down if removed completely, so her parents opted for the removal of part of the tumor. Zoey then began chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and radiation, which eventually led her to enter remission. Unfortunately a few months later, Zoey relapsed.
Doing everything in their power to give Zoey a fighting chance, her parents agreed to another delicate surgery that would remove the original tumor plus five new ones in her abdomen. With the odds stacked against her, Zoey pulled through those treatments and now requires life-long care.
Zoey visits Nicklaus Children’s Hospital every two to three weeks to undergo immunotherapy and routine checkups. She recently started attending school in person after five long years, something she has looked forward to since her diagnosis.
Rosa is thankful for the support provided by Nicklaus Children’s and Mia’s Miracles. “Zoey walks into Nicklaus Children’s and her entire personality changes. She walks in with a lot of confidence, as if she owns the place,” said Rosa. “That says everything to me, they saved my daughter’s life and Mia’s Miracles helped us not lose our home… what else can I be thankful for?”