For The Madera Tribune
Alayna Rodriguez was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her neck in 2018. A fundraiser will be held for Alayna on Dec. 7 in Fresno.
Alayna Rodriguez of Madera is just your typical four-year-old girl.
She loved to go on road trips to Disneyland and other places.
But in September of 2018, things took a drastic turn for her and her family.
An otherwise healthy little girl, Rodriguez began to experience neck pain at night and had trouble sleeping. As her symptoms worsened, her family searched for answers by visiting her pediatrician, going to urgent care and, eventually, three trips to Valley Children’s Hospital.
The first time she was hospitalized there, her doctors sent her home saying that she was just experiencing muscle spasms and perhaps had a torn ligament.
But as Rodriguez’s health continued to deteriorate, her family knew that there was something more was going on; something much more serious. She was being misdiagnosed and her family was desperate to find out what was wrong with their baby girl.
Eventually, after an MRI, doctors found a parent’s worst nightmare. Her neurosurgeon said that she had a tumor in her neck that was found to be cancerous. Rodriguez was then diagnosed with ependymoma, a rare cancer typically found in the brain. The mass was putting pressure on her spine.
In October of that year, Rodriguez had her first surgery to remove the tumor, a procedure that lasted 14 hours and caused her to spend 15 days in the hospital.
“She did 30 rounds of radiation and she had to be sedated with a mask over her face,” her mother Eugenia said. Seeing their daughter suffer devastated Eugenia and her father Josh.
Alayna has been receiving care at Saint Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis for over a year. And, although families are not charged for the hospital services, Rodriguez’s family still needs help.
Eugenia had to leave her job, making the family have to rely on Josh’s income to get by.
Alayna does not see her father often, and hasn’t seen her two siblings since she started treatment at Saint Jude’s.
So when the American Cancer Society and the Great Beginnings Learning Center in Madera got word of what was happening to Alayna, they knew they had to do something.
The two organizations have started a fundraiser to help the family with the cost of travel for Josh and the rest of the family to visit Alayna for Christmas.
They partnered with Applebee’s on Friant Road in Fresno to sponsor an all-you-can-eat flapjacks breakfast to be held on Dec. 7.
Tickets are $10 and the breakfast will include pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes, coffee, juice and water and will be served from 8-10:30 a.m.
The family will receive 50 percent of the proceeds raised and the money will go directly to funding a trip to Memphis for Christmas and to help fund health insurance for Alayna, as the family is required to have in order to help pay for certain bills.
Eugenia said she was extremely grateful for the help that she has received from the American Cancer Society and the Great Beginnings Learning Center, where Alayna’s aunt works.
“It’s a blessing. Our prayers are being answered and Alayna will be healed,” she said. “She will be a living testimony to God and that we have all the community, friends, family and people we don’t even know praying and supporting Alayna and the family.
To purchase tickets for the fundraiser, call either Alayna’s aunt Josie at 706-7948 or the Chair of the American Cancer Society of Madera, Linda Nicacio, at 675-3930.
Those that wish to donate but are unable to attend the fundraiser can visit the Great Beginnings Learning Center in Madera. Alayna’s GoFundMe page is at gofundme-dot-com/f/the-fight-is-on-for-team-Alayna.
As of Nov. 26, the page had raised more than $15,000 of a $50,000 goal.