Firebaugh community comes together to help 1-year-old girl fighting cancer

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A toddler in Firebaugh is facing a bumpy road to recovery as she battles Neuroblastoma amid the pandemic.

While COVID-19 turned lives upside down earlier this year, in Firebaugh, one-year-old Emily Frias and her family learned more devastating news.

"They found a mass and it was a pretty big mass," said Emily's mother Maricruz Baldovinos.

Emily's diagnosis was cancer, specifically stage three Neuroblastoma. In this case, a peach-sized tumor was compressing Emily's spinal cord.

"We cried. You never think that it's going to happen to you," said Baldovinos. "By the time we took her in, she had paralysis from her waist down. She had hardly any movement in her legs. They could pinch her leg and she wouldn't feel it."

Since April, the family has traveled back and forth from Firebaugh to the Bay area for treatment. They have cumulatively spent about 45 days at UC San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital completing 5 cycles of chemotherapy. Emily has lost her hair, most of her eyebrows, gained weight and developed so-called 'chemo burn.'

Her mother says it's been a painful process made more difficult amid a pandemic.

"COVID has made everything harder," she said.

"I have had to deal with all the news of hearing your child has cancer and what plans they have for her by myself because you know they didn't let her dad in or any of my family," said Baldovinos.

At 15 months old, Emily's had seven coronavirus tests. The testing is mandatory for her before imaging or chemo.

Her rehabilitation has all been done virtually.

"He looks at her legs or he will tell us to move her leg this way or move her leg that way, but it's not the same as when you see them in person," said Baldovinos.

Emily has made some progress since starting chemotherapy, regained the ability to crawl and stand. But her parents say her tumor has shrunk less than 10%.

"At this point, we are 5 cycles in," said Baldovinos. "It hasn't shrunk very much and each chemo session gets a little bit harder for her."

Now Emily's parents are waiting to find out if surgery is an option. They made the pricey decision to get a second opinion from a New York doctor.

But the community of Firebaugh isn't letting the family go through this alone. Several community members have stepped in with the Facebook page Auctions for Emily.

Virtual auctions ranging from Tupperware to televisions have so far relieved a burden of about $4,500 for Emily's parents. People have partaken in the auctions from cities all over the Central Valley.

"Everything that they have donated out of the kindness of their heart to get us to not have to pick between paying our mortgage or getting treatment for our daughter," said Baldovinos.

The community has organized a blood drive for Emily on Saturday, August 29. It's taking place at Blue Flame 1255 O St. in Firebaugh from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. For more information on the blood drive, contact Maricruz Baldovinos at (559) 630-0554
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