Earlier this year, six year-old Alissa Gomez from San Angelo, Texas became clumsy, often running into different objects and walking funny. Her grandmother, Leah, suspected an ear infection was causing Alissa’s clumsiness and imbalance. On April 14, Leah took her granddaughter to the doctor expecting an ear infection diagnosis and walked out with a diagnosis for brain cancer. After doing a CT scan, the doctor informed them that Alissa had a tumor in the lower, rear portion of her brain and told them to go home, pack a bag and head to Cook Children’s in Fort Worth for an MRI. On April 15, Alissa was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a fast developing brain tumor. “That day changed our lives forever,” Leah said.
Five days later, the doctors successfully removed a majority of the tumor with no substantial side effects; however, the molecular study of the tumor revealed a mutated cell in the TP53—the gene that prevents a tumor from growing too fast—that the doctors had never seen before. Instead of going a more typical route, Alissa began two months of Proton Therapy radiation followed by a month break in July. The next step was chemotherapy. Alissa’s first round was in August and her final round will be in November.
“She is doing extraordinarily well, but it is very difficult being away from home. Not just for Alissa and me, but for her brothers back home. They miss her and she misses him,” Leah explains. “I was always the one taking care of the children while my husband was at work, so it is hard for everybody to learn a new routine.”
Leah found out about the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth from her caseworker at Cook Children’s. Leah and Alissa have stayed at the House off-and-on since her treatment began in April. It quickly became a home-away-from-home and a place of comfort for the Gomez family while being away from their own home.
“The Ronald McDonald House has helped us so much during Alissa’s treatment by providing a place for us to stay, food for us to eat and entertainment for the children.” The Gomez family would often be accompanied by Alissa’s two brothers, Jeriah and Keano, during Alissa’s longer treatments. On one special occasion, some family friends came all the way from San Angelo to spend the day with Alissa and her family. They dressed up in character costumes and entertained Alissa and other House children.
One of the best memories Leah and Alissa have from staying at the House is when they first walked in the door and having the House pups, Mac and Luke, greet them.
“What we love most about the Ronald McDonald House is just feeling at home with everyone. It’s like our second family. Without their help, we would not be financially able to afford travel for Alissa’s treatment.” The House was able to provide the feeling of love that Alissa and Leah were missing from their own home back in San Angelo.
The Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth was a “lifesaver” for the Gomez family. “The staff is so kind and so helpful. They ask us about our day and how treatments are going. They remember and play with our kids. It is just an amazing place to be, I would recommend this place to anybody in need.”