OC family putting hopes in Stanford clinical trial to help girl, 7, with rare brain tumor

ByJessica De Nova KABC logo
Wednesday, July 13, 2022
OC family hoping for cure for 7-year-old's rare brain cancer
A family is preparing for a clinical trial in hopes doctors at Stanford find a cure for their daughter's rare pediatric brain cancer.

ORANGE, Calif. -- An Orange County family is preparing for a clinical trial in hopes doctors at Stanford find a cure for their 7-year-old daughter's rare pediatric brain cancer and other children with the same diagnosis.

Cellphone videos show Sarah Valdivia on her bike and roller skates as she takes on a rare brain cancer. It's not what you'd expect from a child undergoing radiation, but Sarah is a fighter.

Her parents Joanna and Reyes Valdivia shared their daughter's story with Eyewitness News.

"She's always been a very active young little girl. I mean she loved going hiking. She would hike like five miles with dad. She's very adventurous. We used to love going to national parks and you know, now she can't, we can't even go to the park without her needing help," Joanna said.

This past January, doctors at Children's Hospital Orange County diagnosed Sarah with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma or DIPG.

There is no cure.

"They say she can have anywhere from four to six to nine months to maybe a year, year and a half. Every child is different," Reyes said.

The tumor is inoperable and usually occurs in kids between the ages of four to 11, affecting movement as it wraps itself around the brainstem.

Sarah is one of only a few hundred children a year in the U.S. who get this diagnosis.

Six weeks of radiation temporarily helped, giving Sarah back some control over her motion and allowing for quality time with her parents and big brother - even trips to Walt Disney World and Disneyland for these Disney fanatics.

"We're still trying to do family things, go to the movies, go to Disneyland," Joanna said.

"Just trying to make it as normal as possible and trying to enjoy every moment we can," Reyes said.

As symptoms of the tumor return, the family looks forward to a clinical study out of Stanford.

"We're praying that this trial is it, that maybe her and the kids that are going through it, are gonna be going through it, are gonna be the ones that are gonna be that next step to say, 'Look, now there's a process on how to heal, how to get rid of it,'" Reyes said.

Through it all, Sarah stays positive, brave, even able to give her dad a little sass.

The clinical trial requires the family to travel to the Bay Area every couple of weeks and stay there. Sarah's dad will likely have to miss work.

Anyone wanting to help this family with these costs can donate to their GoFundMe.