Boy of the Year 2020

Boy of the Year 2020

New Mexico Boy of the Year 2020,

Elijah Duran

Elijah Duran
Survivor and a champion

November 18, 2019

                It is going to be really difficult to stick to one paragraph but I will do my best to keep it short.

  My first experience with cancer was in 1986, when I lost my 33 year old brother to Leukemia.  A lot of what I remember back then there was nothing but sadness, and separation between my whole family.  It was a very lonely time in my life.   You can imagine what went through my mind when the doctor first told me that my 12 year old son might have Leukemia. 

                My son Elijah Duran had not been feeling well over the summer, in fact all the signs were there, but not once did it ever cross my mind that son would be diagnosed with Leukemia.   He was scared and excited because he was going to start 7 the grade.  He was going to a new school, and he was leaving all his friends behind.  I thought he was just under a lot of stress, he complained everyday of body aches, and headaches, but I found an excuse for everything that was wrong with him.  I told him things like, “You are going through growing pains, or you are not wearing your glasses, that are why you are having headaches.  I felt so bad afterwards because I feel like I should have caught it sooner, I should have seen the signs, but I didn’t.

  Then school began, we would have to get up at 5:00 am in the morning, and I would take Elijah to meet his ride for school. He would go to an after school program until his ride would pick him up after school until I got home from work. He would hang out with his nephews, (My grandsons Jonah and Noah) after school and they  would tell me, “Grandma, Elijah was so slow today, he couldn’t keep up with me and my friends, so we began to notice that he could not keep up with friends at school, he was getting extremely tired but now I noticed that he was getting this pale color to his face, I still didn’t think anything of it.

Elijah and his cousins

One morning about two weeks into school, when I was driving him to school, he told me, “Mom I really don’t feel like walking up the hill today”.  There was this hill he had to walk up every morning and he was already struggling to get up that hill as each day passed.  This brought concern with my older son, and he suggested I take him to the doctor to get him checked.  But that day, he didn’t make it up that hill.  He began to hyperventilate, my grandson Jonah went to get security.  They got to Elijah and he was pale and weak.  They immediately took him to the nurse’s office where they took his temperature.  He had a fever of 104, so they called me to go and pick him up.  When I got there he was so pale, I asked him what was hurting, how was he feeling and he said he was just so weak and tired.  We went immediately to the emergency room in Espanola, when we got there, they swabbed him for strep throat.  Here I was thinking that they were going to give him something for strep throat and we were going home.  Still to this day, my son has not been home. 

Elijah at enjoy a burger at his familiy's restuarant
Elijah at enjoy a burger at his family's restaurant

Of Couse the doctor came in to say that Elijah had Strep Throat, but they were going to take blood and run further tests.  It didn’t take long for the results to come back in.  The doctor told my son and me “your labs came back and they are abnormal, so we are transferring you to Presbyterian in Albuquerque right away to see what is going on.  I knew at that moment I had a bad feeling.  The doctor then told me to meet him in his office to talk.  I knew, as I walked down the hallway what he was going to say.  I sat down and he told me his white blood cells were low as well as his red blood cells, I asked the doctor, “What does that mean?”  The doctor said “It could mean a few things but more than likely he has Leukemia.” My heart dropped to the floor.  I tried to stay strong for my son, but I couldn’t hold back the tears. 

I walked back  to the room that’s when my son wrapped his arms around me and said “Mom, don’t worry everything is going to be alright.”  We will get through this, come on Mom, lets pray”.  I could not believe what I was hearing.  My son was stronger than me at that moment. When the doctor came in to explain to my son what he and I just talked about, I saw the tears in my son’s eyes.  But he stayed strong the whole way to Albuquerque.  I called my husband to let him know that they were transferring us to Albuquerque and gave the news to the family.  My family was devastated, Elijah‘s brothers and sister could not believe what they were hearing.

Elijah and his grandfather
Elijah and his Grandfather

I must say that everything happened so fast from that day on, that sometimes it is still a blur.  This has been such a life changing experience for my family and me. Elijah was admitted into the hospital on August 26, 2019, and on August 29th he was diagnosed with Acute B-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  The first few days were intense.  He received 8 blood transfusions, platelets 4 times, went through surgery for a biopsy, and then to get a port placed by his heard for medications once he was diagnosed so they could begin chemotherapy.  One thing I can say is that I am so grateful for my children, my family and friends for all their support.  I am so grateful for Preys Oncology team for making us feel like family.  They have and continue to help us in so many ways.  They are taking such good care of my son; they give me and my son hope.  Especially because it is not easy watching him get sick with the chemotherapy but it does help him in the long run.  In fact he told my husband and me that he felt so much better than the first day he came in.  Last but not least I am so grateful for the Ronald McDonald House for all their hospitality.  We are currently staying there while Elijah is receiving treatments.  I am grateful for my boss, for allowing me to miss so much work, even though I try my hardest to make it home to work as much as I can.  This has been a difficult time for us, but it has brought us so much closer together as a family.  It is making us stronger as a family, and I know that with Gods help and guidance, we stay positive, and don’t lose hope.   I know that we will get through this.  Oh and I can’t forget much thanks to the Lymphoma, Leukemia, and Cancer Fund of NM for all your great support.  I am looking forward to giving back, what has been given to us so freely. 

Thanks to all,

Gutierrez Family

Elijah and his family
United as a family they stand to fight blood cancer!
Gutierrez Family