How a rare childhood brain tumor brought us together

My stepson Roberto Saenz was heading to junior prom in 2009 when his brain tumor symptoms began. As he rode in the limo, he started to have a severe headache and began vomiting. His mother, Debbie, took him to the children’s hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, where doctors diagnosed him with a severe sinus infection. Growing up, Roberto had had a history of frequent headaches, but they were becoming more painful and medication wasn’t helping. Finally, an MRI revealed a mass at the back of his brain. In June 2009, Roberto had brain surgery in Corpus Christi and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He recovered well and was voted prom king his senior year. A brain tumor recurrence The next fall, another MRI revealed a small “spot” near the resection site, where his tumor had been removed. Unable to determine if it was scar tissue or tumor, Roberto’s doctors continued to monitor him closely. His headaches began again, and when the MRI showed progression, Roberto had his second brain surgery in May 2011. This time, the pathology confirmed a devastating diagnosis: grade III pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma (PXA) with anaplastic features, an extremely rare brain cancer. Roberto’s doctor and our family decided to seek consultation from MD Anderson. I can still hear our hero, Roberto, saying, “Let’s do this.” As a family, we were heartbroken and very emotional, but our warrior was ready to fight. United as one team On June 2, 2011, we began a journey together. I’m married to Roberto’s father. With Roberto’s mother, Debbie, her husband, and all of Roberto’s siblings and stepsiblings, our separate families united as...