South Florida

‘You're Scared for Her': Young Child Battles Cancer During COVID Pandemic

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When the COVID-19 pandemic essentially shut down society in 2020, people were beginning a new normal and for some that included being diagnosed with cancer or going through treatment during that time.

Fighting cancer in the middle of a pandemic looked differently for different patients. This month, we’re telling some of their stories like 8-year-old Maddie who got tough news at just 4.

“I love to ride horses, draw, and spend time with my puppy,” said Maddison Nuñez.

Like any 8 year old, Maddison is full of energy and life. A life that’s come with challenges. At 4 years old, Maddie was told she had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

“The way that they explain it is you have your white blood count, you have your red blood count, and Maddie had purple cells in her body as well. The purple are Mr. C cells which mean cancer. She likes purple but not those, right?” her mother, Melissa, told NBC 6.

In 2018, Maddie couldn’t break a fever and had swollen lymph nodes in the back of her neck. Her mother, Melissa, took her to the pediatrician’s office and after a week of testing, her doctors told her it was Leukemia.

“It gets me every time you’re very scared, every time I still get the watery eyes. It’s very scary because once again Maddie was 4 because you’re scared for her, what’s to expect what’s to come?,” said Melissa.

“I cried because of her,” said Maddie.

What was to come were two and half years of treatment under the care of pediatric oncologist at Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute Dr. Doured Daghistani or Dr. D.

“It is the most common cancer in children that’s why something very well-known, thank God these days, 2022, 90 percent of the children with Acute Leukemia are cured,” said Dr. Daghistani.

The treatment included chemotherapy and when the pandemic hit, Maddie’s parents had to remove her from school.

“Throughout all of the chemo that she was going through and even if she had gotten COVID, it would’ve been a lot worse because we didn’t know how immunocompromised she would be,” said Nuñez.

She did some remote learning, but, by that point, she was already behind.

“I love my teachers, I love my friends, but the thing is- it’s too long,” she said.

While not a fan of school these days, Maddie’s family is just thankful she is back to a more familiar life using her experience to drive her forward.

“I think it’s so hard to see your child suffering and fighting for their life, I think it’s very important for the parents to keep their faith, to keep the hope,” said Melissa.

Maddie turned 8 in March and she is a 1.5 year in remission. Something Dr. D mentioned, if a fever doesn’t go away from 48 to 72 hours, seek medical attention.

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