This Christmas one Fort Worth family is counting their blessings — especially the one they call campeona.
Marisela’s 14-year-old daughter, Dana, has leukemia, a diagnosis she has had since age 9. For 3 1/2 years, Dana got chemotherapy. She lost her hair. She couldn’t play with other children. She had to do her schoolwork at home.
But, her mother said, she made it.
“It got to the point where the doctors told her, ‘You might not make it,’ ” Marisela, 34, said, crying. “We call her our campeona, which means champion. Instead of me giving her the strength, she was giving me the strength. Even though she was going through cancer, she would always have a smile on her face. And I think it’s because she knew she would win.”
For Dana and her younger siblings, 11-year-old Abel and 6-year-old Rosemary, Christmases haven’t always been a happy time.
“My diagnosis was really depressing. It was heartbreaking. It was a really horrible time,” Dana said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen next. But I’m happy I beat it and I’m still here.”
The leukemia has been in remission for more than a year. And it’s a year that her mother said she has been using to help Dana relive the childhood she missed — trips to Chuck E. Cheese's and Putt-Putt, chatting with her friends on the phone, listening to her music maybe a bit too loud.
More importantly, this is one Christmas the family can celebrate what they have — oine another.
Marisela, a single mother, applied to the Star-Telegram’s Goodfellow Fund this year because she lost her job and has had a hard time finding work. She baby-sits for extra cash when she can and she gets help from family — just not enough for extra, like Christmas gifts.
“I just didn’t want my kids to have any more bad Christmases,” Marisela said. But with a little help from the Goodfellow Fund, she said, today is “the first Christmas we really feel hopeful.”
And as far as Dana is concerned, she said she already got her Christmas wish this year.
“I want happiness for me and my family,” she said. “I’m happy I don’t have to suffer anymore.”
Last week, the total number of Goodfellow Fund donations was down about 9 percent from last year, said Richard Greene, executive director of the Star-Telegram charity, which dates to 1912.
Greene said that concerns him.
“We may not have the money to pay for the gift cards we’ve bought for these kids,” he said. “When you’ve committed to serve this many children you just hope the community will respond in the same manner they have in the past. And they’ve done it year after year.”
This year, 19,500 kids received $50 J.C. Penney gift cards that can be redeemed for clothes and shoes.
Greene also said it’s important to remember the charity accepts donations all year.