It’s Valencia resident Addison Rivera’s 10th birthday and two-year anniversary of fighting cancer, and all she wanted was a blood drive and to raise money for cancer research.
With the help of her family and Renew Holistics, she was able to make those birthday wishes come true.
Thursday marked two years since Addison’s bone marrow biopsy, where she was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia, a type of blood cancer. While it marked a somber day two years ago, this year, the Riveras were able to replace those somber memories with happy ones, as Thursday also marked Addison’s birthday blood drive.
The road to recovery
In December, Addison is set to finish her cancer treatment — a momentous occasion the family said felt like it was an eternity away.
“Two years ago, it seemed like we would never get here,” said Addison’s mother, Cassandra Rivera. “In a way, it happened really quickly, but it also didn’t. … Time has not gone fast, in a way, because every day has been so hard.”
It’s now been a two-year battle both Addison and Rivera agreed was not an easy one, as each day has been a roller coaster for the family, never knowing when Addison would be feeling well or not.
“I know that we are really privileged and blessed because compared to other kids with other cancers, I know that so many people have it so much harder,” Rivera added. “She hasn’t been re-hospitalized in months … so we’re lucky.”
Even so, for the past two years, Addison has had no immune system, as it’s being suppressed so the cancer cells can’t grow, which has been especially difficult through a pandemic. But with December right around the corner, it’s all smiles from Addison.
“It took a long time, (but) I feel really happy about it,” Addison said.
The benefits of donating blood
Since Addison’s diagnosis, the family has come to realize the importance of donating blood and have partnered with Children’s Hospital to host drives of their own.
“She knows all the nurses, and every time we go to the hospital, it’s the one comfortable place for her to go because it’s the only place in Children’s Hospital where adults get poked,” Rivera said, referring to the Blood Donor Center. “It’s the one part of the hospital where she’s never going to be a patient.”
Rivera never knew what a blood donation could do for her own health, as donating blood is actually healthy for the donor as well.
“When you donate blood, your body has to regenerate its cells, so your body automatically refreshes itself with fresh, new blood,” Rivera said. “It’s like getting an oil change for your body.”
More so, Rivera has come to realize the life-saving powers blood can have for others, especially for her daughter, who has received numerous blood transfusions as part of her treatment.
“There have been so many times where she literally had to get carried into the hospital because she was just so sick … and then as soon as she gets that bag of blood, it’s like magic,” Rivera added. “There’s one time she was skipping out of the hospital.”
Making a birthday girl’s wish come true
Through the years, Addison has also helped others, like Kaycee Tashjian, owner of Renew Holistics, to realize the joys of donating blood, as an adult doing so can save up to three lives, according to the American Red Cross.
“Addison and her mom have been clients since I opened, and we’ve kind of grown quite a personal relationship,” Tashjian said.
Since donating at another of Addison’s blood drives, Tashjian has wanted to host a blood drive of her own, thinking the Renew Holistics parking lot would make the perfect location, and Addison gave her the perfect opportunity with her birthday wish.
“Kaycee’s just taken it over and done the whole thing for Addison,” Rivera said.
“We just wanted to give back to Addison and her family, because they go through so much, and Addison is such a strong, beautiful human,” Tashjian added. “I’m so happy that we got to be a part of it because we just adore them and want to show our support for their family.”
Addison and her now-8-year-old brother, Micah’s, birthdays are just a week apart, so they got to celebrate together at the blood drive.
They were able to see friends — who came to support them from a distance — for the first time in a long time, complete with Kona Ice in lieu of birthday cake.
“We’re being really careful with all the (COVID-19) precautions, so I thought, ‘Well, this is a perfect time, if we’re out in the parking lot, where she could see a couple friends in person,” Rivera said. “Addison and Micah want to treat the nurses and a couple friends to Kona Ice.”
So, while spread out — and with Kona Ice in hand — Addison and Micah’s friends sang “Happy Birthday” to the siblings as the blood drive came to a close.