Coming Together for Hannah
Updated: Nov 27, 2019
At bel ami Salon, our staff is family. Right now, our amazing stylist Mariela is going through an incredibly difficult and trying family emergency. On December 8th, 2018 , her 11-year-old sister was diagnosed with leukemia and has entered a fight that no child should ever have to experience
Up until the end of last year, Hannah was everything an 11-year-old girl should be.
“One of her favorite things to do is to play videogames like Minecraft,” Mariela said of her little sister. “Before she got sick she was playing soccer, it was her thing. She was actually about to try out for the basketball team, but unfortunately she wasn’t able to do that this year, but she wants to be able to do it when she gets better. Right before she got sick she went to a CSU women’s basketball game and loved it, and wanted to try out herself.”
Hannah has struggled with her health before. When she got sick, she got really sick. Also, she was always so tired. One of the most alarming issues she struggled with was orthopedic pain, especially in her joints.
“They actually diagnosed her with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, that’s what they thought it was. They did blood work and a bunch of tests and never found anything but her pain. Her bone pain was pretty bad for the past 5-6 years, she was just always in pain,” Mariela said.
Unfortunately, as she got older her symptoms took a turn for the worst. Right around Thanksgiving 2018, Hannah started feeling sick.
“She woke up the day after Thanksgiving with a really sore throat and a horrible dry cough that caused her to have a sore chest,” she said. Being 11 years old, she was also dealing with a whirlwind of changing hormones. When the cough and sore throat were accompanied with wrist pain, her parents started to worry but their knowledge of her RA diagnosis kept them from panicking.
By Friday, December 8th, she woke up screaming in pain. She was rushed to the hospital but her X-rays showed nothing. The doctors ordered blood tests, gave her some painkillers and sent her back to school. By the end of that day, the nurse called Hannah’s mom with the results.
“They told her that they needed us to go and get Hannah from school and to bring her down to Children’s Hospital down in Aurora as soon as possible. My mom said she knew what it was right away. The nurse was trying to be calm but there was an urgency in her voice. She said, we think that Hannah has leukemia and we need to get her treatment started right away.”
After countless tests at Children’s Hospital, the Barquero family was given a formal diagnosis of Hannah’s leukemia.
“With kids they treat leukemia very aggressively,” Mariela said. “They only do treatments Monday-Friday at Children’s, so for those first few days they were just keeping her comfortable because she was in so much pain.”
The doctors indicated that Hannah may have actually had the disease dormant in her body for her whole life. They think that her fluctuating hormones could have been a trigger, but an environmental trigger is also possible.
“They aren’t concentrating on why, they are just focused on dealing with the aftermath,” she said. “They did a blood transfusion to increase her strength and started doing chemo on that Monday the 10th, and has been doing chemo ever since.”
Hannah was in the hospital for 11 days. She was able to come home and spend a wonderful Christmas with her family, which they are all thankful for.
“The day after Christmas we had to shave her head, her hair was just falling out in clumps. This was devastating to her because her curly hair is who Hannah is. I found this company in Florida that you can send their hair into and they make a wig out of it, so at least it’s her hair. So by the first week in January, we at least had her hair back, but that was pretty traumatizing for her. Her beautiful, brown curly hair was her thing,” Mariela said.
As a part of her treatment, Hannah was put on steroids. They altered her body, her mental state and mostly her appetite.
“We couldn’t keep up with her eating, it was horrible. She gained 25 pounds in 2 weeks. All of the weight she gained plus the bloating, it changed her. She looked like someone else. She was this little girl, but now she looked like this teenager, but not. It has been very detrimental for her mental health,” she said.
The mental aspect of Hannah’s battle has taken a huge toll on her. She had always been quiet and reluctant to talk about what she felt, and this situation only made it worse. She tended to shut down and would often refuse to talk to the hospital staff about how she was feeling. Both her family and her medical team agree that Hannah is suffering from a state of depression, and have referred her to a psychologist to help her cope.
“At this point, we needed help. I have a 25 year-old-sister, Andrea, who lived in Costa Rica with her husband and my niece. My parents needed to go back to work so my sister decided to leave her life and move here in January to be Hannah’s primary caregiver. The fact that she had to leave her life to come here in help is so draining, emotionally and physically,” Mariela said.
Hannah’s treatment is currently ongoing and she is actually enrolled in a clinical trial. Every 6-8 weeks she starts a new cycle of chemotherapy.
“Right now she is technically in remission, which is super big news. At the same time, it actually doesn’t mean much. For leukemia, it means that her body is fighting and responding to treatment. However, leukemia is a rapidly growing disease and she has a gene mutation that allows it to grow and develop even faster than normal, they have to continue to attack it aggressively,” she said.
Her clinical trial is treatment with a new drug that works in unison with chemo, in hopes that it will be gentler on her body. She is getting blood work done weekly to determine she is strong enough to continue receiving treatment.
“We are at the hospital at least once, if not twice a week,” she said. “She is not in school right now, but she does do some computer work at home. Hannah was in a gifted program before she got sick, so her school is letting her focus on getting better. She actually graduates 5th grade in 2 weeks and we are hoping that she will get to go.”
The Barquero family is currently waiting to see if the clinical treatment will yield results. Unfortunately, the medical bills are piling up for the family and they are struggling to balance Hannah’s caregiving and working.
Bel ami Salon is holding a raffle to benefit the Barquero family’s fight against Hannah’s leukemia. Tickets are $5 each and clients can buy as many as they would like to show their support. To show our appreciation, one lucky client will win a free cut and color with the stylist of their choice.
“All I can say is thank you, first and foremost. This has been a tough situation for our family, it tore us all down. We have always been a strong, supportive family but at this time we need help. Whether it is in the form of hugs, good vibes and prayers, we take it all. If you’d like to go past that, we are so thankful for donations through bel ami’s raffle, our GoFundMe, and Meal Train accounts,” Mariela said.