Chandler girl’s leukemia fight raises $23,000 - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Chandler girl’s leukemia fight raises $23,000

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Posted: Friday, October 21, 2011 3:24 pm | Updated: 4:11 pm, Thu Oct 25, 2012.

Amber Fernandez’s room at Phoenix Children’s Hospital doesn’t look much like the hospital room of someone battling a condition that has caused her to lose her light-brown curly hair. It instead resembles a shrine for someone keeping a positive attitude and being brave in the days ahead.

On Friday the hospital and the Arizona Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society held a special event for 7-year-old Amber, where she signed a check for nearly $23,000. The funds were made possible for the society by a Flamenco music fundraiser concert spearheaded by her aunt Natalie Fernandez and uncle Justin Fernandez’s band, Tesoro Flamenco, last week in Tucson.

Amber, who is battling acute myeloid leukemia, signed the check and returned to a room backdropped by a huge picture of hearthrob Justin Bieber given to her by her aunt Theresa.

Close to Bieber’s image were words written on the wall: “Fight, Fight, Fight.”

As Amber sat in the room that will be her home in the weeks ahead, she nodded her head and said of the funds raised in difficult economic times: “It will help other people.”

But Amber’s seriousness turned to an ear-to-ear grin when asked why she keeps a picture of Bieber in her room.

“I think he’s cute,” she said. “I like his songs.”

Amber, the daughter of Ben and Kelly Fernandez of Chandler and a second-grader at Chandler’s Hull Elementary School in teacher Brittney Soenen’s class, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in July when she was visiting her grandparents in Virginia. Amber had to be treated at a hospital there before she was flown back to Arizona so she could begin undergoing chemotherapy treatments at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Acute myeloid luekemia is a cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells, characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells. Symptoms of the disease include fatigue, shortness of breath, easy bruising and bleeding, and increased risk of infection. The disease can progress rapidly and can be fatal within weeks or months if left untreated.

For now, Amber’s soccer playing and turning cartwheels in an after-school gymnastics program are on hold as she now is in her third round of chemotherapy treatments and being prepped for a bone marrow transplant scheduled to take place in early December. She’s expected to be in the hospital for another two weeks before she begins her journey toward the transplant.

Amber’s 4-year-old brother, Benjamin, will be the donor as he is a 100 percent match.

Benjamin believes he’s Superman, as he hopes to save his sister and sometimes wears a Superman T-shirt to emulate the superhero.

Amber doesn’t seem to mind that Phoenix Children’s Hospital will be her home in the weeks ahead as she has to wear a mask when she leaves her room, where she said some of her classmates have visited her.

“I get to keep all the things I like here,” Amber said. “Treatment is going good.”

The funds raised from Tesoro’s concert last week were set to be donated to this weekend’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s fundraiser walk, “Light the Night,” at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park in Tucson. The Arizona Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society will host another Light the Night fundraising walk at Tempe Arts Park on Nov. 12 where 5,000 people are expected to turn out.

Natalie Fernandez said of the fundraiser: “The concert was like a big party. We’ll have another one when Amber is cured.”

Amber’s father said: “Nobody’s stronger than our little girl. This has been life-changing altogether. We look forward to nothing more than a chance of life for Amber. We’re grateful for everything that everyone has done.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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