PHOENIX — The battle against a pandemic is hitting home for everyone, but for those with children battling for their lives, the stakes couldn't be higher.
“The last six months have been the hardest six months of our lives,” Lissette Torres-Lint said.
Lissette's daughter is 11-year-old Maggie.
Before she was even born, doctors told Maggie's mother she would have a rare genetic disorder called trisomy eight mosaicism syndrome (T8mS).
Doctors told Lissette Torres-Lent if her daughter survived the birth she could be blind, unable to talk, and may never walk.
Maggie would undergo multiple surgeries and be placed on a feeding tube. Eventually, she would overcome the obstacles she faced -- talking and walking well enough to go to school.
Last year, Maggie was diagnosed with cancer.
“As a parent, the worst news you can hear is that your child has cancer,” Torres-Lent said.
The diagnosis meant chemo. A family rallied around Maggie. What helped the long hospital stays were the little sparks of joy Maggie received, from visits by Disney princesses to animal therapy.
However, the outbreak of COVID-19 has changed all of that.
“That went away all that went away,” Torres-Lent said.
It did not happen at the beginning of the outbreak, but Torres-Lent said in early April things changed quickly.
The volunteers, the special visits from animals, and musicians were gone. Even the playroom was closed to try and prevent the spread of Coronavirus to those with compromised immune systems. Folks like Maggie.
“They are so immune-compromised, it’s scary,” Torres-Lent said.
Rules changed within the hospital to who could even be there to comfort Maggie as she went through Chemotherapy.
“Midway through chemo, they changed the policy that only one parent was allowed at bedside,” Torres-Lent said. “Cognitively she really doesn’t understand we can’t explain why daddy can’t be there.”
These policies are meant to keep her daughter safe and healthy. Torres-Lent supports them, but that doesn't make them easier in the moment.
At home, Torres-Lent had to ask her eldest daughter to move out to her dad's home, because she works at Starbucks and the family does not want the virus accidentally brought to Maggie.
The precautions may have been worth it after rounds of chemo, the most recent tests came back that another round will not be necessary.
“We can’t officially say she is cancer-free but we are so close and so happy and so excited and I'm so grateful,” Torres-Lent said. “She continues to beat the odds at everything thrown at her.”
It is the latest battle Maggie has faced in her life.
Lissette said her daughter was bullied at a playground. Once she was forcibly removed from the playground.
Lissette wrote a children's book. Maggie was the main character, pushing for acceptance of differences.
She would also start Red Glasses Productions, aimed at helping parents and children alike learn how to treat people who may act or look a little differently from themselves.
However, after a laundry list of medical issues, the latest hurdle for Maggie came this fall. Doctors found a mass in her reproductive system. It was cancer.
“After everything else that she has experienced in her life, how is this one more thing?” Torres-Lent said.
The community gathered around Maggie, from private showings of "Frozen II", to being honored by her local school board, to meeting Coyote and Suns players. The family tried to make the best of a bad situation.
Maggie returned home from the hospital after her most recent round of chemo this week. She still has a way to go on her way to recovery, but home means an ability for a family to carry on traditions, from baking to gathering around the Christmas Tree.
They are thankful for the little light available during the special holiday season.
“It puts your whole life in perspective and realizes what’s important. We just want families to know to not lose hope. Just because you have this diagnosis doesn’t mean you can’t have hope,” Torres-Lent said.