For Enrique, coming to work every day means more than just going to a job. It’s an opportunity for him to give back to the hospital that worked tirelessly on his daughter’s behalf after she was diagnosed with cancer.
That journey started in 2009, when Enrique was in the U.S. Navy and stationed in Japan with his wife, Leticia, and two daughters, Alivia and Arianna. Shortly after Arianna’s third birthday, she was found to suffer from a rare cancerous tumor called an atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor (ATRT).
The family traveled to Texas, where Arianna underwent surgery, but was given very little chance of survival. Devastated, Enrique and Leticia began to research treatment options. That’s when they turned to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where Arianna underwent a second brain surgery and received 31 radiation therapy treatments and four rounds of chemotherapy.
Arianna was 3 when she was diagnosed with a rare cancerous tumor.
Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80% since it opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude is working to drive the overall survival rate for childhood cancer to 90%, and we won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
Arianna responded well to treatment and remained cancer-free for 15 months. But in July 2011, the cancer returned. Doctors at St. Jude refused to give up, and Arianna underwent an experimental drug treatment.
Unfortunately, the cancer continued to progress, and Arianna passed away in 2013, weeks before her eighth birthday.
Arianna at St. Jude in 2013.
“I wanted to come back and work here and give back for everything they did to help my daughter.”
Enrique, who now works for ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude.
Today, St. Jude continues to be an important part of Enrique’s life. After retiring from the military, Enrique began working at ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude. He’s able to do meaningful work that reminds him of Arianna. “I wanted to come back and work here and give back for everything they did to help my daughter,” he said.
In addition, the family, which now includes 18-month-old Henry, continues to support the hospital throughout the year, fundraising for events like the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend.
“It’s important that we continue supporting a place like St. Jude because childhood cancer is not as rare as it seems,” Enrique said. “For the trajectory that my life took, I feel like this is the place where I need to be.”