Tamara, age 8, Ewing sarcoma, with her father, Julio

A father's intuition

Tamara loves to dance and sing. So when she started having hip pain that caused her to limp, her parents grew concerned. Tamara's father, who is a pediatrician in their native country of Bolivia, suspected cancer. An MRI confirmed his worst fears — Tamara had bone cancer.

Tamara’s dad, Julio, describes her as a very sociable little girl who never gets tired of jumping and dancing. “She has an easy smile,” said Julio. “She’s wonderful.”

Julio has spent 20 years working in hospitals in Bolivia as a pediatrician. Even so, when his daughter Tamara started having pain in her hip, he wasn’t immediately worried. “As a dad, you think she must have fallen down,” explained Julio.

As the months went by, Tamara wasn’t getting better. Her doctors thought she had arthritis, but her treatment wasn’t working. Then, a scan showed alarming results. Further tests revealed Tamara had Ewing sarcoma, a type of bone cancer. The family was referred to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for Tamara’s care and treatment.

St. Jude patient Tamara

Here, we haven’t just found treatment for the tumor. We’ve found a thousand things: human warmth, love, hope.

Julio, Tamara's dad

Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since it opened more than 50 years ago. “When St. Jude accepted us, we understood there was hope,” says Julio.

At St. Jude, Tamara is receiving chemotherapy. She has developed friendships with patients and staff. A St. Jude family even reached out to them while they were still in Bolivia to offer a helping hand. “Here, we haven’t just found treatment for the tumor,” says Julio. “We’ve found a thousand things: human warmth, love, hope.”

As a pediatrician and a dad, Julio has had to adjust his perspective a little bit. “When we first arrived, I would read the finest details of everything that could happen,” he says. “But then, I saw that I wasn’t handling the emotional side properly, so I stopped all that and decided to just be a dad.”

Tamara has not lost her smile. She wants to be a dentist when she grows up, and she has already chosen the names of her future daughters. 

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