MAYWOOD, IL – Rosalina Resendez thought she was taking her 5-year-old daughter Mariana Sauceda for an exam to diagnose a possible lazy eye. Instead, doctors found every parent’s worst nightmare for their child – cancer.
Mariana had a brain tumor that wrapped around major blood vessels in her brain.
“I didn’t know what to do. I felt lost at that moment,” Mrs. Resendez said. “The nurses were so tentative with me. They were calming me down and saying ‘It’s not your fault, mom. We’re here to help you and take care of Mariana.’ And they did.”
As Mariana, of Stickney, continues her fight, she will serve as an honorary “hero” for Loyola’s 5th Annual Health, Hope & Heroes 5K Run/Walk on Sunday, June 5.
The 5K starts at 9 am on the campus of Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), located at 2160 S. First Ave., Maywood, Illinois. Race proceeds will support Loyola’s pediatric healthcare programs.
Watch Mariana’s story.
In 2013, Mariana’s family noticed some changes in her vision and took her to the pediatrician. Upon seeing the test results, Mariana was sent to the emergency department at Loyola University Medical Center, where she underwent additional imaging.
At Loyola, Mariana was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer, an atypical teratoid rhabdoid (AT/RT) tumor. AT/RT tumors are fast-growing tumors of the brain and spinal cord that usually occur in children age 3 or younger, but also can occur in older children and adults.
“Hers was in a most difficult location, so it was a difficult operation from that standpoint,” said neurosurgeon Douglas Anderson, MD. “We were very cautious about how we could get around each of the vessels and still debulk the tumor adequately.”
Following surgery, Mariana began nearly a year of chemotherapy and radiation. She was admitted every three weeks to receive chemotherapy by IV and through a spinal tap. After the third month, the effects of the treatment began to take its toll on Mariana, who was unable to walk and needed help getting out of bed.
“We didn’t see the side effects right away,” Mrs. Resendez said. “After the third month, she started getting weak. But she was so brave. She was so positive. She’d speak about the future.”
Despite the effects the chemotherapy and radiation were having on her body, Mariana maintained her positive personality.
“She is one the best patients I’ve ever had,” said Mason Boutros, RN. “Regardless of whether she’s feeling nauseous or uncomfortable, she doesn’t let it get her down. Whenever I was her nurse, it made for a good day.”
While she has finished chemotherapy and radiation, Mariana continues to undergo maintenance MRIs as doctors monitor her condition. She has regained a sense of normalcy, returned to school and loves to dance and sing in her bedroom decorated with Frozen characters.
“She’s demonstrated that kind of spirit that we see in people who get up, move on and keep fighting,” Dr. Anderson said. “Children are frequently amazing in that way. They bring comfort to their own doctors and their parents when they are going through this.”
Mariana’s mother said Mariana is her hero because she’s so brave.
“She’s so positive and she gave me the strength to keep on fighting with her.”
The Health, Hope & Heroes 5K Run/Walk will be followed by a Children’s Hero Hustle, a 50-yard dash available for children ages 10 and younger. Area sports mascots and characters will be on hand to entertain kids as they race. Kids’ activities also will be held at the finish line area from 8-11:30 am.
All participants receive a commemorative t-shirt. Entertainment and refreshments will be provided following the race.
All are invited to join the 5K to help children like Mariana. For more information about Loyola’s Health, Hope & Heroes 5K Run/Walk, or to register or make a donation, visit loyolamedicine5k.org.