Dear Santa, please send a cure! Love, Marisol


Marisol Perez gets an early Christmas visit from Santa Claus. (Mila Besich Lira photo)

By Mila Besich Lira

Superior Sun

It is every parents worst nightmare, that one day something horrible happens to your children. Whether they are 5 months, 5 years or 50 years old, dealing with an illness of a child is not easy. You wish you could take it all away, the pain, the fear, it is the way humans are designed, to protect our children.

That is the case for the immediate and extended families of Marisol Perez. Just days before Halloween she and her parents, Rusty and Julie Perez, found out that Marisol had T-Cell Acute Lymphoblast Leukemia. “We took her into the clinic here in Superior because she had unexplained bruises and a rash that looked like measles,” explained her mother Julie. “She was a little more tired than her normal self and had a bloody nose the weekend before but, we were not expecting this diagnosis.” Leukemia is not a disease that is hereditary; a person can get it from childhood through age 60. This particular type of Leukemia is very aggressive and can quickly spread, according to the American Cancer Society website.

The clinic ran tests on Monday and by Tuesday morning Cobre Valley Clinic Physicians Assistant Blaine Jensen had referred the family to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, immediately. Marisol’s blood work showed that she had a white blood cell count of 269, a healthy person usually has between 4 to 12, this count required further testing and monitoring at a hospital. By that evening doctors at the hospital had diagnosed her with Leukemia. “The Doctors told us that if we had waited another week, Marisol may not have survived.”

Marisol has completed the induction phase of her therapy and has responded well to that treatment. Over Thanksgiving she was re-admitted into the hospital due to a high fever, but came home last week. She is now in her second phase of chemotherapy. This phase combines both chemotherapy and radiation. She will undergo this phase of therapy for eight to nine months. While she continues to be a bubbly 5-year-old, this phase of treatment has affected her motor skills. “She still tries to run around the house, she just can’t run as fast as she was before and her hair has fallen out,” explained her mom. Marisol’s doctors have prescribed what will be at least a two and half year treatment regime. Currently she receives her treatment at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital East Valley Clinic twice a week. The family has had to change their routine to help keep Marisol safe from other infections; even a ride in the desert can affect her progress.

Throughout our interview with Marisol’s mom Julie, she use the word “grateful” over and over. Grateful for the staff at Cobre Valley Clinic who took care of things immediately, grateful for their family and friends who have been helping out in every which way. Her parents George and Norma Otero and Rusty’s parents Brian and Kathy Long have been very helpful to them. “My mom is helping to keep our finances in order so we can focus on Marisol and keep our bills paid,” she explained. Grateful to the community of Superior who have hosted multiple benefits in the past few weeks to help raise money to cover their medical bills. Just before the diagnosis Rusty, Marisol’s dad was laid off from his job constructing the number 10 shaft at Resolution Copper. The contractor who he was working for paid their COBRA health insurance for November and December to help out. Grateful for the staff at John F. Kennedy School especially Marisol’s pre-school teacher Mrs. Zavala and her aid Mrs. Toner who send Marisol her school work so she can try to stay on track with what her classmates are learning.

The Superior Optimist Club along with the Superior Sun arranged for Santa to make a special visit to Marisol and her siblings, AJ, 10, Isabella, 8, and Julissa, 6. The annual light parade took a detour and drove by their home so Marisol and her family could enjoy the parade together and receive treats from Santa. Sheriff Paul Babeu has invited the family to come Christmas shopping with the Sheriff this weekend.

Marisol and her family still have a long road ahead in their journey to recovery. There will be struggles and joy along the way, but one thing is for certain, Marisol is surrounded by friends, family and community that love her and her parents and siblings.

Anyone wishing to help the family can make a financial contribution at the Bank of the West, to the Marisol Perez benefit account.

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