Avon preschooler battles cancer
AVON – At 4 years old, Nancy Velasco should be playing with dolls or Legos. Instead, she spends her days getting chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital in Denver. Due to the chemo, Nancy, who lives with her family in Avon, has lost all her hair, eyelashes and eyebrows.Doctors first detected Nancy’s problem in 2003, when she was only 1 year old and went to get her regular shots. At first, they said the tumors were benign, but they later developed into something called Wilm’s Tumor, a rare type of pediatric cancer.”She had tumors all around her kidneys and they couldn’t take them out,” said Evangelina Velasco, 30, Nancy’s mother, who spends her days with her daughter at the hospital in Denver.”In the beginning the doctors thought the tumors would go away, but they are still growing,” she said.Nancy has had more surgeries than birthdays -five, including one last June to remove one of her kidneys.She’s had four chemotherapy treatments, which according to Velasco, aren’t helping her daughter.”In the beginning they gave us a lot of hope,” said Velasco, a native of Zacatecas, Mexico, “but the chemo is very strong and isn’t working well. (Nancy) has been like this for four years and she’s getting worse. I’m losing hope.”
Help on the wayThe life of the Velasco family – which also includes Carlos, Nancy’s father, and Alejandro, her 7-year-old brother – is not only painful, but complicated.The Velascos have lived in the Vail Valley for eight years. When Nancy became sick, Evangelina left her job cleaning houses to take care of her daughter. Carlos had to quit his second job because he has watch their son when Evangelina is in Denver with Nancy.Evangelina doesn’t drive, so she depends on Carlos or friends to drive her to Denver, especially if there’s an emergency. “Lately, with the chemo, (Nancy) gets very sick,” she said. “I’ve had to take her to Denver in an ambulance.”The Velascos need money to cover travel costs to Denver and other expenses they are incurring due to their daughter’s illness.In January, doctors will remove Nancy’s other kidney, and she will have to go on dialysis for two years before she can get a kidney transplant. Evanglina said they will have to go to Denver three times a week for the dialysis treatments.So far, the Velasco family, such as dozens of other families in the valley, will get some help from the Vail Valley Charitable Fund, a local nonprofit that has earmarked $5,000 for them. The nonprofit will also receive donations for Nancy and could organize fundraisers for her.The Vail Valley Charitable Fund helps people who live and work in Eagle County who have overwhelming financial needs due to medical crisis. Since its creation 10 years ago, the Fund has helped 600 people and distributed $5 million.
“We choose people based on the seriousness of their condition; seriousness of financial need; the length of residence in the valley; and their involvement in the community,” said Rohn Robbins, founder and director of the Fund.”In a usual month, we received five to eight applications,” Robbins said. “Some months, we give grants to all applicants if all applicants meet our criteria for aid. Some months we give no grants.”According to Robbins, 35 to 40 percent of the applications they receive come from Hispanic applicants. Still, he said he doesn’t think the Hispanic community is fully aware of the help the Fund can provide.”Many of the Hispanic applicants we receive are referred from the Salvation Army, Vail Valley Cares, Catholic Charities or other similar organizations,” Robbins said.The Fund also receives grants from other organizations (other local contributors are Vail Valley Cares and the United Way).Once the Velascos receive the grant from the VVCF, Evangelina Velasco said the family plans to buy a newer car for the trips to Denver.”We don’t have anything because my husband had to quit his evening job to take care of our son, Alejandro,” Velasco said. Looking at Nancy’s future, Velasco said many things can happen.
“We always have to keep an eye on her,” she said. “The doctor has told us that if she catches an infection she could die.”Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado CO