Childhood Cancer Heroes

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Diego Vega

  • Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

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Diego is a unique, creative teenager who loves to learn. He spends a lot of time in his room reading, writing stories for comic books, spending hours building LEGOs, and watching his favorite movies, Star Wars and Batman. But in 2021, Diego started showing some strange symptoms. 

Diego’s skin and lips looked pale, and he seemed low on energy all the time. One night he spiked a fever and showed his mom, Alma, red dots that looked like bruises on his legs. The next morning, she took Diego to the pediatrician who rushed him to do some lab testing. At 1:30 am that night, Diego’s pediatrician called and told Alma to take Diego to the ER as soon as possible because his lab results were alarming. Diego immediately began receiving blood and platelet transfusions at the hospital, then had a bone marrow biopsy and lumbar puncture exam. Diego was diagnosed on March 26, 2021 with acute myeloid leukemia.  

Treatment began with five rounds of chemotherapy at a nearby hospital in Las Vegas, during which Diego happened to get every side effect imaginable. His bone marrow shut down after the second dose, making other complications harder to deal with – bacteria from infections even produced a wound on Diego’s leg that prevented him from receiving a transplant at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). His family sent pictures, but doctors refused to proceed with his transplant until he was healed. Frustrated, Diego’s family decided not to wait any longer, and traveled to CHLA to fight for their kid’s life. 

Diego was admitted on December 20, but his difficulties did not end there – his transplant donor, his 6-year-old stepbrother, needed to be brought all the way from Puerto Rico to California. That’s when his family’s social worker connected them with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), who were able to give his stepbrother’s family a place to stay during the transplant. The day of the transplant was the first time the two had ever met in person. The ALSF Travel For Care program also supported Diego’s family with their own lodging and gas getting to and from California.  

Finally, Diego received two transplants: the first failed to engraft, but the second was Diego’s Miracle. Today, he is in remission. 

He is his family’s hero because of how special and exceptional he is. His father says that this world is not ready to have a Diego to be part of it, and his mother finds his fight unbelievable. “I will never forget his screams and his tears, his weakness and his moments of “giving up”, his tiredness and his moaning caused by how much pain he had!” said his mother, Alma. “What will always remain in my heart is his love for God and life! His faith and hope, his strength in every step, his positivity when he couldn’t even walk! And no matter what he was going through, even if his fight was worse, he always had the heart to help others and make them feel better, putting other kids before himself. That’s my son! That’s my hero! He is here to show others that there is no limit to love even in your worst times.” 

To Alma, ALSF means they are not alone. It means there is someone who cares about their situation, someone who understands what they are going through. Knowing there are people fighting alongside them brings comfort and makes them feel heard. “I will be forever thankful for the help and relief that ALSF provided for our family!” said Alma. “Your support was invaluable since we were still trying to get our life together.” 

Diego's family’s hopes for the future are what every childhood cancer family hopes for. “We need more help, our kids deserve better care, treatment and medication that is not based on adults. They are our future and they deserve to live. I hope and pray with all my heart that a cure is found!” 

Information provided by Alma Y., Diego’s mom 
Updated April 2023 

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