Brave girl beats rare form of cancer called LCH

Author wants to become a pediatric oncologist so she can  help children with cancer. Photos courtesy of Espiritu family

By Sophia Espiritu

I was diagnosed with cancer at 9, in the middle of third grade. I had a rare form of cancer that occurred in 1 in 200,000 kids.

It all started at 7 years old, with my drinking problem (but it isn’t what you are thinking of!). I was drinking a lot of water, having 12 of the 16 oz. bottles a day. After that, I started having headaches all day, every  day for a month. We went to many doctors and after 1 ½  years, I got an MRI to see what was wrong.

The back of my brain was very inflamed and I could be blind. As a kid, I was still unable to comprehend the situation while I was admitted to the hospital. I had brain surgery on Monday, and ended up staying in the  hospital for almost a month. After I got many different tests, I was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, Langerhans cell histiocytosis. (LCH, according to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, is “a rare disorder in which the body makes too many dendritic cells, a form of white blood cell. These cells play a role in the body’s immune system. They can be found in the skin, lungs, stomach, bone, eyes and intestines. In LCH, dendritic cells build up, forming tumors and disrupting the normal function of tissues.”) I eventually went back to school and was treated with chemo outpatient, spending time in the hospital with my parents. Although I was getting better, I felt worse day by day. But with time, wounds heal, both my emotional and physical wounds from surgery. 

Sophia while in treatment.

After 1 and a ½ years, with chemotherapy and monthly ER visits, I was able to get better. I had been praying for this moment, just like my entire family. Finally God granted a miracle for me. Many people in our church, the Church of Christ, would pray with me, especially as I got out of the hospital that my recovery would be fast. Luckily, these prayers came true in July 2019, the day that I was finally told my brain MRI scans were clear, and that I was cancer-free at last. I cried tears of joy with the rest of my family. No more pain. No more sickness, or metallic taste in my mouth from chemo. No more pricks from drawing blood. There were so many people there for me, encouraging me to keep looking forward and trying hard, and so I want to help people like I was helped.

On my 10th birthday, I did a fundraiser, the Shirt and Share Drive, where I donated 700  chemotherapy shirts to other young kids with cancer in multiple children’s hospitals in Long Island, New York. Doing things like that made me happy, which is why I, myself, want to become a pediatric oncologist as I grow up so I can  help children with cancer because I know it first-hand through my experience.

FACC (Filipino American Cancer Care) is an amazing organization that helps people with cancer here in America and the Philippines. I was fortunate to attend the Fashion Gala last year in Virginia as a model. It made me feel beautiful and so normal. According to Oprah, “I chose to rise up out of that storm and see that in moments of fear and helplessness each of us can be a rainbow of hope, doing what we can to excel ourselves in kindness and grace to one another. And I know for sure that there is no ‘them’ there is only ‘us’.”

Please, help these children’s “small dreams turn into big realities” for with cancer there is so much you can’t do, that you can only dream until you can have it. It definitely resonated with me. And believe you can beat cancer, it has the word “can” in cancer! So please, support and be generous, open your hearts by donating. FACC, would be so grateful.

Sophia Espiritu, 14 years old, was a patient at Stony Brook Cancer Center. On her 10th birthday, she and her family distributed more than 700 ComfyChemo shirts to pediatric patients at the hospital.

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