Twelve-year-old Eva didn't want pizza and cake for her birthday. Her chemotherapy treatments had ruined her the taste for those regular choices. Instead, she wanted In-N-Out Double Doubles, with fries and a root beer. The ice cream had to be Baskin Robbins rainbow sherbet with peanut butter sauce and gummy bears.
But the girl who had recently moved to San Diego from Sacramento with her family to be near the beach didn't even know she was going to get a birthday party. Her mother, Bella, wanted to make up for Eva having to miss celebrating her birthday because it had fallen on a day of therapy. She asked Rock Cancer C.A.R.E. to help out. So on December 5, 2009, with 36 hours' notice, volunteers Kristen Hunt, Jennifer Zambrana, and Jenna Jordan walked in to the Rancho Penasquitos apartment ready to party.
"With the help of Bella, we were able to pick up some of Evas favorite things to make her day extra special," said Jennifer, one of the ministry's Intake Coordinators. "Not only did we want to represent everything that our Cancer C.A.R.E. ministry stands for, but we wanted to see this precious child of God smile. And we did!"
Even though this was the first time meeting the volunteers, Eva invited them in with a shy, glowing smile. Dressed in a red tutu, green leggings and wearing pink starfish earrings, she looked like a dancing doll. Standing next to an all-white Christmas tree, decorated with Ferrero Roche chocolate nuggets, she looked ready to celebrate.
"All afternoon she asked how we knew what to get and how we knew what she loved."
The volunteers, along with Eva's mom, sister and a friend, sang "Happy Birthday" around a cup of rainbow sherbet into which they had stuck 12 candles--pinks candles, because that's her favorite color. A pink bag, tied to a large Hannah Montana balloon, held her presents. Kristen handed her an adorable silver purse that carried a small digital photo holder. Other presents included some nail polish with stickers, lip gloss, and a 750-piece cat puzzle.
"What she loved the most was the 'High School Musical 3' movie she had been begging her mom for. All afternoon she asked how we knew what to get and how we knew what she loved," said Jenna, another Intake Coordinator.
The group popped in the DVD and ate the birthday lunch while chatting about cats, school and boys, among other things. The volunteers said it was hard to realize that Eva had had a treatment the day before for the leukemia she was diagnosed with in June 2009.
"They have no family here and very few friends, so for us, as a ministry, church and as friends, to be able to come in and throw a small but beautiful party together with very short notice and at no cost to the family, was simply a God-sent gift to the Istomins," said Jenna. "We were given the opportunity to brighten a little girls life, if just for a day, to help her realize that all birthdays are special and God-given, even if youre fighting cancer!
Eva is currently receiving chemotherapy treatments and bone marrow transplants at Rady Childrens Hospital in Kearney Mesa.
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Rock Cancer C.A.R.E. exists to provide compassionate, spiritual, and emotional support while connecting cancer patients, caregivers, and survivors to available resources to help them cope with the effects of cancer. (www.rockcancercare.org/)