The Gift of Life

TERESA AND RAYMUNDO PARRASMUNDO

When a child fights cancer, the entire family fights with them. Teresa Parrasmundo, who refused to give up on her son Raymundo, found another fighter who would not take no for an answer: Phoenix Children’s Hospital. It was Teresa’s birthday when she learned that her 10-year-old son Raymundo was eligible for the Phoenix Children’s CAR-T program. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Anything like this had felt so out of reach. I will never forget that day.”

Since being diagnosed with leukemia at age two, Raymundo had relapsed three times. But Teresa never stopped fighting. Even when her son was so sick that he couldn’t eat; when life-threatening infections made him too weak to receive treatment; and when Raymundo was near death after months in the intensive care unit; even in those
moments, Teresa felt hope.

“I don’t give up,” says Teresa. “I always tell him that everything is possible. And I kept looking at every option so my son could stay with us.” CAR-T is the next step when all other treatments fail, so Raymundo’s history of relapse made him an ideal candidate for the CAR-T program at Phoenix Children’s and he was immediately enrolled. Within months of beginning the therapy, Raymundo had come back from the brink of death.

For the first time, he was well enough to undergo a bone marrow transplant. And nearly one year later, mother and son are celebrating more than 250 days in remission – a promising milestone.

“This is a kid who doesn’t give up, and a mom who doesn’t say no,” says Dr. Dana Salzberg. “Teresa has given her entire life for Raymundo. And because she found us, CAR-T put Raymundo in remission when nothing else worked.”

Now 11, Raymundo’s life is finally moving beyond his cancer diagnosis. He has his appetite back and more energy than ever. And he’s looking forward to going back to school and maybe even playing soccer. Doctors say that if he continues to improve, he will be back in the classroom in a matter of months. “It is like my son was born again at Phoenix Children’s,” says Teresa. “That place is a blessing.”

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of Hopes & Dreams magazine. This Mother’s Day, send a card to the mothers who are spending time alongside their children in the Hospital.

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