Child Cancer Awareness Month: Alex's story

Alex's story shared for Child Cancer Awareness Month
Posted on 10/03/2019
This is the image for the news article titled Alex's story shared for Child Cancer Awareness MonthKaren Bartnicki-Ramirez wanted her son's Rancho Verde Elementary classmates to recognize Child Cancer Awareness Month in September.

"I approached the principal with the idea. Childhood cancer was never celebrated or honored. Children should never get sick. We need to step it up for our kids' health."

Bartnicki-Ramirez and her husband Roberto have two children at RVE, third grader Andrea and first grader Alex.

Two years ago, Alex was diagnosed with Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. 

Bartnicki-Ramirez joined a Facebook group for Childhood ALL for parents and learned about a project with gold shoelaces. She requested some for Alex's first-grade classmates and received 100.

The first graders changed their shoelaces for the gold color for the Sept. 27 ceremony to honor Alex and for everything that he has endured.

Alex's story mirrors that of many children and adults who have suffered through cancer.

"When they first told me two years ago 'your son has cancer,' I was speechless. The doctors kept on talking, but I don't remember anything. It was just blah-blah-blah. It was a shock."

Alex has undergone treatment at the Vannie Cook Children's Clinic in McAllen, which is affiliated Texas Children's Hospital and at Doctors' Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, which has the a cancer pediatric floor there.

Karen taught science at Rivera High School for seven years but temporarily retired after Alex was diagnosed. Father Roberto is a teacher and coach at Pace High School.

Bone marrow procedures confirmed his leukemia two years ago. Watching him go through two bone marrow procedures and chemo treatments has been hard on the family, but they try to remain strong for Alex.

"When you see Alex, people might not know that he is a cancer patient because he is in remission. You never that he really is until he finalizes his treatments and he doesn't relapse."

It's a three-year treatment for boys. Alex is scheduled to complete the last phase in October 2020.

The side effects of chemo were headaches, blisters in mucous areas of the body such as mouth and digestive tract, liver toxicity, immune system compromised to fungi, viruses and bacteria and limping due to joint pain. Alex has also undergone more than 20 lumbar punctures.

Besides the Facebook group, Karen has become to close to three other mothers in Brownsville and Los Fresnos whose children are enduring leukemia as well.

"Our doctors have told us that we have to live your life as normal as you can. We have to live our life one day at a time."

Alex had been wanting to visit Universal Studios and Disney World in Florida and enrolled in the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He got his wish granted by the Foundation in June, staying in the Give Kids the World Village, an 84-acre non-profit "storybook" resort in Central Florida. Children with critical illnesses and their families are treated to week-long, cost-free vacations.

"He was feeling great because he didn't have chemo in his body at that time. It's the best trip that we could ever ask for."

Alex has become a master at video games. He tells his parents that he needs a new game because he "passed all the levels. He has a lot of toys that the Foundation given him and that his relatives have given him."

The video games help him with problem-solving skills. He enjoys the robots at the Coding Lab at RVE.

"He's heard the word cancer," Karen said. "He doesn't know that he had it. He doesn't know he's in remission. All he knows that he that if he doesn't take his medicines, he can go to the hospital and go to heaven."
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