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Never underestimate a mother’s intuition

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By Diana Bejarano

Mothers are usually very protective of their children, but there is something about a Latina mother protecting her niños y niñas.

That is what Jennie Flores did when her little girl, Kailah, who was just 7 years old at the time, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), one of the most aggressive forms of leukemia. 

It started with very vague symptoms, like Kailah losing weight. Jennie thought, “Maybe it’s because she’s getting taller.” Then, she noticed her daughter was sleeping a little more than usual; but, again, she dismissed it. She also started noticing bruises on Kailah’s body about a month before the diagnosis.

Then the bruises began appearing more frequently and Kailah started having stomach aches. Then, one day, she saw a bigger bruise on Kailah’s back near her spine.

That’s when her mother’s intuition kicked in and told her something wasn’t right. She called her husband at work and said, “Come home now; I think something is really wrong with Kailah.” Leukemia came to Jennie’s mind. A year earlier, she had read the book and seen the movie, My Sister’s Keeper, about a little girl who had the illness.

“I think Kailah could have leukemia,” she blurted out. She recognized the symptoms. Like any father would, he became highly upset, “No! My daughter doesn’t have leukemia.” 

They agreed that Jennie would take their daughter to the doctor, but, when she got to the doctor’s office, something told her to take Kailah to the ER instead.

She drove away and went straight to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Two hours later, the Flores were told their daughter had leukemia. Not the more treatable childhood leukemia, but the more aggressive form, acute myeloid leukemia. 

Kailah coped with the side-effects of five rounds of intense chemotherapy; she took it all in stride. To help her feel better, some of her cousins cut their hair short and donated it to Locks of Love. Her father shaved his head completely. 

Jennie considers herself blessed. She was born to a great strong family and to a father who had to overcome a lot of obstacles in his life; it was his model of strength that helped her get through this difficult time. 

Jennie fought against not listening to her gut and she fought for her daughter’s life. And with the help of her faith, family and friends, her daughter is alive and cancer-free! Kailah has been in remission since March, 2011. Now Jennie and her daughter spend a lot of their time volunteering, educating and advocating for this cause.

Diana Bejarano is an Arizona native and a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Reach her at latinastillstanding@yahoo.com or latinastillstanding.blogspot.com

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