How Valley Children's staff are helping 11-year-old Fresno girl battling cancer

Cecilia Castillo says it was the doctors and staff at Valley Children's who made this journey bearable.
MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Vanessa Villegas is 11 years old and in the sixth grade. She likes science, making slime and playing board games with her little sister.

She's also battling cancer.

"It was back on April 28th, she was not feeling well, so we brought her into the hospital," said Cecilia Castillo, Vanessa's mother. "From there, they found she had a lot going on throughout her body. She had little tumors, on her chest, her kidneys, I think by her stomach. And kind of close to her liver."

"It was on May 1st that we got her diagnosis that she had lymphoma," Cecilia said.

It's been a journey for Vanessa and her family.

"From there, we stayed over a month straight, here at the hospital," Cecilia said.

Cecilia says it was the doctors and staff at Valley Children's who made it bearable.

"The nurses and doctors... they're all so amazing," she said. "Whenever we weren't sure what was going on with her, the doctor's assured me that she was going to be OK."

"She feels so comfortable with everybody. It's hard to pick a favorite nurse and favorite doctor because their all so, so good. Like, all of them. We literally love all the doctors and the nurses," Cecilia added.

Doctors at Valley Children's say having access to child health specialists is a must.

"The nature of cancer in kids is much different. It's usually a lot more aggressive, and grows quickly, especially with (Vanessa's) tumor," said Dr. Faisal Razzaqi. "So the treatments that are needed are different, but it's also the supportive care, right? We're not just treating the patient we're also helping the family."

And when it comes to that kind of care, Valley Children's is king.

"We have a real gem in the Central Valley with Valley Children's. I'm originally from Canada and I've been all over the place, and this is a fantastic place to work," Dr. Razzaqi said.

As for Vanessa, she's already completed five of her seven rounds of chemotherapy. And even though she's only in the sixth grade, she has an idea of what she wants to be when she's done with school.

"A nurse," Vanessa said.

HOW TO HELP: Support Valley Children's Hospital by donating through the Futures Worth Fighting For Telethon
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