Cancer is a six-letter word heard far too often in families living in our area. The responses from individuals vary, but as a community we continuously send a message of strength and care. In the case of 5-year-old Lourdes Esther, or “L.E.” Torres, the community spans from Thurston County, across the Pacific Ocean, all the way to the island of Guam.
“I want to go back to Guam, because I want to visit my family,” says L.E. As a kindergartner this year at Woodland Elementary School in the North Thurston Public Schools, she faces challenges unlike many students in her class. In December of 2016, L.E. began feeling pain in her ankle while attending daycare. What started as faint pain moved to her legs and L.E. stopped walking altogether.
“The doctor did an x-ray, and they said nothing was wrong,” explains L.E.’s mother, Lurita Torres. “We didn’t give up with that diagnosis. We knew something was wrong because she was usually very active. We took her into the emergency room where they took her blood. With the blood draw, doctors discovered the leukemia.”
It was during this trip that doctors diagnosed L.E. with high-risk Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. “She’s lost her hair twice,” explains her father, Victor Torres. “Every cancer is treated differently. Her specific type of leukemia has two-and-a-half years of treatment. Each phase is really difficult. There are long hospital stays and many appointments.”
The road to recovery is a difficult one, but L.E. has shown strength beyond her young age. “It’s a really long process,” describes Torres. “At one point, L.E. had leukemic arthritis and had to learn how to walk again. Sending her to school has been scary too, because if she catches a cold she could be in the hospital for days while recovering.”
Family has been the key to success with L.E.’s journey. “We have three other children that have had to adapt to this,” explains Torres. “It took a while for everyone to process what the outcome may be. There were days where L.E. would have really low counts and be in the hospital. Her siblings would come to visit, and those counts would go up significantly. Keeping her happy has been really important, and family is a big part of that. Not to mention along with our family here we have so much support from our family in Guam.”
The Torres’ family in Guam has banded together and scheduled a fundraiser on the island on Friday, November 17, that will raise money toward daily needs. The two communities of Guam and Lacey have come together to take care of L.E. “Not all families have support like we do,” says Torres. “There are quite a few military families right now that are in need. We know that we are not alone. We are so lucky to have military healthcare and great doctors surrounding L.E. Not everyone is as fortunate to have so much support.”
Knowing that they are not alone in this battle, the Torres family would like to direct support to those in need in our community. “People want to help us and be there for us in any way they can. We would like to see that support go to other families that are less fortunate and in the same situation. Ronald McDonald House and St. Jude are two nationally known charities where we have seen funds go to good use. Locally, Seattle Children’s Hospital has made a huge difference in so many lives. We know that money donated here will make a huge difference for families in our community.”
With a year to go until this cycle of treatment is complete, L.E. has made it clear that she plans to go back to Guam. “Make a Wish came and asked L.E. what she wanted to do, and she said all she wanted to do was go back to Guam. They couldn’t grant that wish, so she will be going to Disney World for a week in the spring, instead. Disney World is great and will be a much-needed vacation for our family, but when this is all over, our end goal will be to take L.E. back to Guam.”