Mikey Rodriguez, a fourth grader at Hernandez Elementary School, is fighting a rare form of cancer. He finished his last round of chemotherapy during Christmas week. Daily Record photo by Lance Winter
Merry Christmas, Mikey
When Mikey Rodriguez woke up this morning, he was like most 10-year-olds. He rushed into the family's living room, eager to tear into his Christmas gifts that awaited.
But, the fourth grader at Hernandez Elementary said one of the best gifts he's received, came just days earlier when he finished his final chemotherapy treatments at Dell Children's Hospital.
How it all began
Ask anyone close to the Rodriguez family and they'd tell you Mikey is a rambunctious boy who plays hard and lives life to the fullest. It was in July, and while playing outside, that he bumped his head. It wasn't something for concern, it was just a kid — being a kid.
It wasn't until September, while on a visit to the barbershop, the bump was discovered still there.
"We couldn't believe it," said Mikey's mother Josele. "It was still there, and it had been so long ago."
Almost immediately after Mikey began complaining of the vision in his right eye; "it wasn't right," he said.
"We took him to an optometrist, and he failed the eye exam," Josele said. "This was of particular concern since no one in our family wears glasses."
A nurse at San Marcos Family Medicine, Josele thought it wise to take Mikey for an x-ray.
"The results were abnormal, and a CT scan was recommended," she said.
The following day, while at school, Josele was contacted by the school's nurse; Mikey wasn't feeling well.
"When I picked him up, he was complaining of a headache and that his left arm 'felt funny,'" she said.
So, she took Mikey to Dell Children's Hospital immediately.
"On the way, he began to feel better so we thought he might be okay," Josele said. "But, following a CT scan and a subsequent MRI — doctors found a mass."
The news caught the Rodriguez family off guard.
"It turned our world upside down," Mikey's dad — Mike, said.
They admitted Mikey and a Craniectomy was performed on Oct. 7. It's a neurosurgical procedure that involves removing a portion of the skull. There doctors were able to get a sample of the growth and perform a biopsy.
"He recovered quickly," Josele said. "They did the procedure on Monday and [Mikey] was discharged on Wednesday, Oct. 9. The nurse at Dell told us it was the quickest recovery she'd seen."
It wasn't until Oct. 21 that the Rodriguez family received the results; the news wasn't good. Mikey had a rare kind of tumor for which there is no cure – Gliomatosis cerebri, which is an astrocytoma. An astrocytoma develops from a star-shaped type of glial cell called an astrocyte.
"It's not a tumor in the conventional sense where you can go in and remove it," Josele said. "It's like a spiderweb, and it spreads."
Mikey immediately began radiation and chemotherapy treatments. On Dec. 17, he finished his last radiation application and finished chemotherapy Christmas week. Asked what he most looks forward to this holiday season, he said was to finish his treatments.
Mikey said he looks forward to opening presents and watching Christmas movies over the holidays. Asked what his favorite Christmas show was, he smiled and with a twinkle in his big brown eyes, said "Elf."
"Sometimes superheroes reside in the hearts of small children fighting big battles," Hernandez Elementary Principal Amber Owens said. "Mikey is a hero at Hernandez Elementary. He's been a student here since kindergarten."
She said Mikey is always happy, smiling and liked by students and staff; and they will continue to pray for him and his family during this holiday season.
"I've given it to God," said Mikey's dad. "We pray constantly and ask everyone to pray for Mikey."
The family's faith is strong and big sister Michelle has been there cheering on her little brother, all along the way.
"We believe in the power of prayer," said Josele. "Mikey's blood levels look perfect. In a few weeks, we'll go back to the doctor and see if the treatments have worked."
After that, the family said they'll take whatever steps needed to help their son.
"The more prayers the better," Mike said. "Love your kids...like there's no tomorrow."
NOTE: A fundraiser is scheduled at Jack's Roadhouse — 1625 Hopkins St. — on Jan. 11. It's appropriately titled "Mikeyfest."
It will be a family-friendly event with live music. Proceeds will help the family cover medical costs. There is also a GoFundMe account.