Most days, Avaya Hernandez is all smiles. With a cancer diagnosis at age 3, she is wise beyond her years. She’s 8 years old now and truly realizes how blessed she is to be enjoying such an active and healthy life.
Her maturity was apparent early on. During the four rounds of chemotherapy she received, she would happily pack her suitcase whenever she needed to stay overnight at Texas Children’s Hospital. "Because Texas Children’s created such a warm environment for her, she never fought it," said Kelley Hernandez, Avaya’s mother. "She actually wanted to be there."
Avaya first showed signs of illness in October 2010 when she spiked a fever of 103 degrees. Her doctor was unable to lower her temperature, and at the same time he discovered her heart was racing at 160 beats per minute.
Following a rush trip to the emergency room, an X-ray determined the source of Avaya’s accelerated heart rate—a six-inch tumor that was lying over her heart, lungs and diaphragm. Doctors were able to remove the tumor during a six-hour-long procedure, but it was malignant.
The chemotherapy followed. Her last treatment was on January 23, 2011, and Avaya was officially moved to the long-term survivor program at Texas Children’s Cancer Center in February 2015.
Happy and healthy now, Avaya’s journey has been filled with highs—like positive check-ups—and lows like the loss of friends she has made since becoming a patient. But through it all, Avaya keeps her head up, a smile on her face and a special place in her heart for Texas Children’s.