“Do you love me?”

I am sharing this story on behalf of my son Javier Z. Garza who was only 5 years old when he was diagnosed with a JPA brain tumor. My son was an average, healthy, intelligent and thriving boy, but I noticed a change in him when he began wanting to spend more and more time with me, and started telling me he loved me 100 times a day and frequently asking, “do you love me?” I answered yes and told him how much every single time. I knew something was wrong with him and had the gut feeling he was going to die and that this was God’s way of telling me to take advantage of the limited time we would have together. Over time he had been experiencing strange symptoms such as dizziness, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, high fevers without any infection or pain, limb weakness etc… His pediatrician misdiagnosed him on several occasions and assured me he was fine.

It wasn’t until our family friend, Dr. Michael Flores, alerted us that something could be seriously wrong with our son. He ordered a CAT scan for us and within minutes of having it done we knew my son had a brain tumor. We flew Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston that same day, and my son was admitted. I felt my entire world crumbling down as I believed my previous intuition to be true. At that time I really thought my son would pass away and there was nothing I or anyone could do, I was uniformed about brain tumors in general and believed it was a death sentence. Fortunately I was wrong. We met with renowned Neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Dauser who educated us on the type of tumor my son has and outlined his treatment plan which would involve craniectomy and tumor resection only, since his tumor was benign. A portion of the tumor was left in his brain due to its proximity to the brain stem.

My son spent over 30 days in the PICU recovering from his surgery, the majority of that time intubated and on a ventilator. He suffered from high fevers, collapsed lungs, paralysis of his tongue, vocal cord, and entire left side. The relentless team of doctors and nurses always kept us informed, and more importantly, gave us hope and faith. After over 90 days at Texas Children’s, my son was released and on his way to a complete recovery. He requires physical and occupational therapy to this day due to residual nerve damage, but has come such a long way after having to learn to eat, walk, and perform everyday tasks all over again. He now enjoys school, basketball, swimming, and playing with his little brother. His tumor did not affect him cognitively in any way which is a misconception we often encounter. The entire experience brought our family closer and strengthened our connection with God.

We are eternally grateful to Dr. Michael Flores, Dr. Robert Dauser and the entire Texas Children’s family. His biannual checkups (MRIs) bring anxiety, but we count our blessings every single day and never miss the opportunity to answer his favorite question, “Do you love me?”

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