Joining the Battle

Molina+poses+for+a+picture+with+her+mom+and+sisters.+

Molina poses for a picture with her mom and sisters.

Scribbling over the lines in red crayon in her coloring book, Gabby Molina laid on her stomach while Dora the Explorer played softly on the TV above. Little did her two-year-old mind know, a couple of feet away stood her angry aunt, saddened father and pained mother as they discussed the heart-wrenching news. 

“I was two at the time my family found out my mom had cancer,” Molina said. “I know my family was scared, everyone but my mom, my aunt was mad at the fact my mom wasn’t healthy anymore, and seeing my mom mentally and physically hurting was hard.”  

Now a junior, Molina walks through the in’s and out’s of her mom’s cancer with strength. Diagnosed early on, doctors came to the conclusion Susie Molina had multiple myeloma, sending the family into foreign territory.  

“I was 39 when I [was diagnosed with] cancer,” Ms. Molina said. “I was not nervous or scared because I had faith in the Lord, and I was glad it was not my kids.”

Multiple Myeloma is a blood cancer that breaks down the immune system. Affecting approximately 32,270 adults each year, it remains the second most common blood cancer with a five-year survival rate. Damage to the DNA can make plasma cells turn into cancerous cells known as myeloma. Over a long period of time, they reproduce and multiply into the bone marrow. This cancer alone leaves patients in the hospital for months at a time, prepping them for surgery, chemo and radiation, all the while weakening their body.    

“Finding out, I really didn’t understand it until I got older, maybe around fourth grade,” Molina said, “I found out it was ‘not normal’ what she was going through, and that’s when I really grasped the concept.”

With the timing of her mother’s diagnosis, Molina grew up knowing how to take care of her mother, helping her alleviate stress and pain. Tending to her mother played a substantial role in the family between having children to take care of and spending weeks in the hospital for surgeries. So, while her father comforted her mother in a hospital bed as she laid tired in a gown, Molina stayed home with aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers, and attended school as usual thinking of her mom constantly.  

“I think the hardest part about my mom having cancer is having to be up late trying to help her or keep her mind off the pain she is having, or missing school to go to her doctor’s appointment,” Molina said. “The last thing would have to be missing out on a healthy mom, she’s trying to let us have a ‘normal’ life with her, but with her not being healthy I have missed out on birthday parties or not being able to do things that cost a lot.”

Molina sacrifices a lot for her mother. She tends to her needs, helps around the house, and stays home instead of going out sometimes so she can be there for her family. Though, what may seem laborious to others, Molina views it differently. Instead, she strives to make life easier for her mother in hopes to give her the most normal life possible. However, when March 2020 came around the corner, normal seemed too far of a stretch. 

“It makes me sad,” Ms. Molina said, “because covid has stopped us from doing our everyday things. We can do things like going for walks without having to worry about catching covid or even [going] grocery shopping.”

With Ms.Molina’s immune system already compromised, venturing into a world with COVID became too dangerous. The family quarantined from the outside world for months, leaving for only essentials and work. They took daily walks and continued to work out accordingly, but for the most part, the Molina family stayed home to keep safe. As the season of COVID progressed though, eventually Molina’s older sisters could come over again and she could go back to school in-person. She began to attend her small youth group again and celebrate holidays with family as long as they stayed healthy and sanitized.

“Don’t get me wrong, I do hate it [cancer],” Molina said, “but it’s not always downs, there have always been ups. Such as the times she does make it to my games, when we go shopping, or go on trips. From 2020 to now, it [cancer] wasn’t that bad on her, besides the first couple of years of finding out she had cancer. We’ve learned to manage as a family.” 

As a large family support system, they’ve taken news as hard as cancer and turned it into just an obstacle to overcome. Molina refuses to only look at the negatives and instead cherishes the positives. She takes the moments spent with her mom to heart and relishes the time she gets with her. 

“A piece of advice would be grief a little yes,” Molina said, “but be strong for the family member going through it [cancer] because they are the ones dealing with the physical pain.”

Molina is one of 2.85 million children whose parents are affected by the unfortunate causes of cancer. She’s one of 2.85 million children who continues to be a light in the world for the sake of her mom and fights for a better life for her. Molina chooses to smile through it all, being strong for everyone that needs her.

“Don’t focus on ‘they might pass away sooner’, focus on the present and the good times, that is what has helped me the most, and finding a hobby to do that you love,” Molina said. “One last thing, if they like their hair but are not doing their best, make them laugh [and] live your lives as normal as you can. It will help them not feel so down in the dumps.”