A Chandler mother of a son with special medical needs is now facing a new challenge: cervical cancer. She says despite all the hardships she has faced this year, she still has a lot to be thankful for.
Ten months ago, Debbie Valenzuela, a special education teacher at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer. As a result of her diagnosis, she underwent chemotherapy as well as internal and external radiation.
"Everybody is faced with adversity...I wasn't going to let it beat me," Debbie said.
Last spring Debbie nearly lost her life during treatment.
"I felt like my life just ended but not because I have cancer — a lot of people have cancer — it was because of my kids," Debbie explained. "I don't want to not be here for my kids."
Debbie's 12-year-old son, Ryan, has special needs and is combating some health issues of his own.
According to a GoFundMe page for the family, Ryan was diagnosed with tracheomalacia, bronchomalacia, chronic lung disease, a collapsed left mainstream bronchus and neurogenetic bladder. He’s now dependent on a ventilator for oxygen and a broviac central line for food and other nutrients.
"Life is a struggle for Ryan but we wouldn't trade it and we just feel God gave him to us because we wouldn't quit on him and we could do it," Debbie said.
Additionally, Ryan had titanium rods inserted in his back that must be adjusted every few months in Philadelphia. The rods make him more prone to the MRSA infection so he receives three IVs a day to help him fight it.
He has already undergone 100 surgeries in his short life and is no longer mobile. He requires "round-the-clock medical care by his family and nurses", the GoFundMe page described.
He's slated for another surgery at the end of this month.
As a result of these unfortunate circumstances, Debbie’s husband, Ray, lost his job because he had to take care of his wife and son full-time. This has created a financial burden on the already struggling family.
Now the community is coming together to help pay for their medical expenses.
Debbie's co-worker, Brittany Giannonatti, started the GoFundMe page for the family.
"If we can take off some of their burdens, especially financially, they can just focus on being happy and healthy and being a family together," Giannonatti said.
If you'd like to donate to the family, see below: