“She’s the happiest baby in the world. There’s no reason to ever think anything would even be wrong with her.”
What started as Blakely Estevez’s routine 9-month wellness visit led to the baby being diagnosed with cancer. And now her parents – Blake and Abigail Estevez of Norco – say the community’s overwhelming support and a bevy of donations has left them nearly speechless.
“You don’t think you’re ever going to be that family that needs it … that needs help … and then you log into Facebook and you see that people are already doing all these things for you,” Blake continued. “I don’t know how this baby has so many people who love her … she’s only been alive 9 months. She’s one lucky baby.”
The family’s cancer journey began on Jan. 27 when Abbie brought Blakely to the pediatrician for a wellness visit.
“Nothing has been wrong with her other than an ear infection … she’s a perfect baby,” Blake said. “Abbie had noticed a lump in her belly – she had noticed it in the past and brought it up, but the doctor had pressed on it and it didn’t cause Blakely any pain and so it wasn’t really a concern. After the wellness check Abbie asked about it again … she didn’t plan to ask about it, but she did, and the doctor said, ‘Let’s schedule an ultrasound.’ That’s where things kind of took a turn.”
Blakely was sent to Children’s Hospital to get blood work and a CT scan. After the tests were complete, it was determined that she had a tumor on her left kidney and a small lesion on her right kidney.
Abbie announced Blakely’s diagnosis on a Jan. 28 Facebook post.
“We got the news that no parent or really anyone wants to ever hear,” she wrote. “The big ‘C’ word. Blakely has been diagnosed with a Wilms tumor.”
Blake said doctors decided to start with 6 weeks of chemotherapy to shrink the mass on Blakely’s left kidney before removing it and to hopefully “kill” the lesion on her right kidney before it progresses. Chemo will start this week.
Blake said the couple was somewhat comforted by the doctors’ prognosis.
“They were pretty positive,” he said. “When you get bad news like this you it’s weird because you start highlighting the little good things in the bad … but we know it hasn’t spread to any other part of her body and a that a Wilms tumor has a good prognosis … it’s like a 90% survival rate even in stage 4.”
News of Blakely’s diagnosis spread fast around Facebook and within the St. Charles Parish community. Nearly $60,000 has been gathered through a GoFundMe for the family, and numerous fundraisers and raffles are also taking place. Destrehan Nutrition announced on its’ Facebook page that it would be collecting donations for the family, and a meal train has also been established to help with feeding the family.
And while there is never an opportune time for your child to be diagnosed with cancer, the news strikes the Estevez family at a particularly terrible time – the family is currently in a lapse of health insurance.
Abbie was scheduled to go back to full-time employment as a pediatric occupational therapy assistant this week. She went down to part-time after Hurricane Ida because Blakely’s sitter’s house was destroyed. Abbie was set to carry Blakely on her insurance, since Blake is a fireman who just switched jobs and is currently in the 60-day window in which he doesn’t have health insurance.
With Blakely’s diagnosis, many questions remain about Abbie’s ability to work full-time now.
“I live for helping kids,” Abbie said. “Little did I know I’d now be on the other end … as a parent rather than a therapist. To see some of my own patient’s families help us is amazing and strange at the same time. Both Blake and I are just very used to being the ones that help others … and we both hate asking for help. So to open up Facebook and check our phones and see how much was already done for use was so crazy and we are beyond thankful.”
On top of everything else that is going on, the family is currently living in their gutted home – compliments of Hurricane Ida. Even still, the couple said they are extremely grateful for all of the help, messages and donations they’ve received.
“It’s been stressful, but she doesn’t seem to mind,” Blake said laughing as Blakely giggled and babbled loudly in the background. “Thank you is not enough, but that’s all there really is to say though. We’re going to get through this together.”