“Before I underwent that medical process, I was a happy girl. I began experiencing strange symptoms, and I knew something was wrong. After the tests, Mommy approached me and said, ‘Valery, you must be brave.’”

Valery was only three years old when her health deteriorated sharply. It was already a difficult moment, as the COVID-19 pandemic had disrupted normal medical processes across El Salvador, as it had worldwide. Valery went from being a content little girl to one in obvious pain, desperately needing medical help. However, it was challenging to secure medical appointments.

“Everything happened suddenly. Valery started crying inconsolably—she had a vacant look and didn’t recognize us. Then came the worst part—the convulsions began,” said Yesenia, Valery’s mother.

A heartbreaking diagnosis

Yesenia quickly took her daughter in her arms and rushed with her husband to the nearest health clinic. They received a referral for some laboratory exams for the girl, but the tests were costly, and they couldn’t afford them.

The family turned to the one place they knew they could find help—the Compassion centre. They visited Monica, the centre’s director.

Monica (centre director), Valery and Yessenia are smiling and posing for a picture together on the grass.

Valery with her mom, Yesenia (right), and Compassion centre director, Monica (left).

“I remember when I opened the door and saw Yesenia with Valery in her arms behind her husband. The girl looked sickly and lacked energy. Yesenia was speechless and burst into tears at the doctors’ suspicions,” said Monica. “Their worry was not having the resources to pay for the exams or to transport the girl to the National Children’s Hospital in the capital city.”

Without hesitation, Monica paid for the exams and arranged transportation to move Valery to the hospital. The family lived in Berlín, over 100 kilometres from the capital city. As Yesenia hastily packed a few belongings, she was consumed with anxiety about her little girl and resigned to spending at least a few nights in the hospital. But she knew they had to leave immediately.

“If we hadn’t received Monica’s support at that moment and transported Valery in that car, she would have died,” said Yesenia.

From that moment, Valery, Yesenia and Monica began a challenging process; the girl was immediately hospitalized. For eleven days, doctors conducted numerous tests without giving any diagnosis.

“Although everything indicated that Valery had leukemia, my heart kept hoping it was not that. I had never experienced something so difficult,” said Yesenia.

But after all her hopes and prayers, confirmation of her daughter’s diagnosis struck her heart like a hammer.

“After analyzing all the test results, the doctors met with me to confirm that Valery had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.”

Fighting for Valery’s health

As soon as Valery’s diagnosis was confirmed, she began chemotherapy. Yesenia left her home to become Valery’s caretaker, staying by her daughter’s bedside throughout the exhausting treatment.

Portrait of Valery and Yesenia at home. Yesenia is sitting on the couch and Valery is behind her hugging her. They are both smiling.

Valery and Yesenia at their home.

“We lived in times of hardship. My mother couldn’t sleep well because I could only stay seated—I couldn’t lie down,” said Valery. “In those hard times, I felt God speaking to me when nurses came to me for blood tests. He told me: ‘You can do it, Valery, they will find your veins quickly.’ That brought me peace, so  I let them prick me.”

Monica was there for Yesenia and Valery from the first moment. No matter the distance, she wanted them to know that she and the church were with them. She provided emotional and spiritual support and a Bible—which Yesenia kept with her in the hospital.

“I am grateful because the centre gave me money when I was in the hospital to buy food that nourished my body—but they also fed me spiritually through the Bible that I read every night when I was in anguish ,” said Yesenia.

Yesenia found in Monica a support that exceeded any distance. Through video calls, she encouraged Yesenia and made Valery smile when she was angry or sad. Monica and Valery developed a strong bond.

“Sister Monica supported me a lot and made getting my treatments easy. She always gave me the toys I dreamed of. I appreciate her because we went through this process together—she was there like God, always performing miracles for me. She is a blessing!” Valery says.

The success of her treatments and recovery for Valery required attending every appointment without fail and not discontinuing the treatment for any reason. For two years, she attended the hospital to undergo chemotherapy many days each month, and each day she had to stay in the hospital for over six hours. If her body didn’t respond well, she needed to spend the night in the hospital.

Early in the mornings, the little girl left her home in Berlín, travelling in the pre-dawn darkness to the hospital in the capital city. Loyal to her, her Compassion centre was with her all that time. Through Compassion’s major medical fund, Monica made sure that all costs were covered, including transportation, medical tests, meals, nutritious milk and everything Valery needed to attend every chemotherapy session.

Today, the fight is won

Valery and her family are now taking life one step at a time. Valery is attending school and enjoying being able to do some of the things she loves, like visiting her grandmother and playing with her cousins, painting, colouring and being able to run again.

Despite all she’s been through and the anxiety about an uncertain future, she is already dreaming about her future.

Valery is smiling as she holds a bouquet of flowers while standing outside in front of a building in the community. She is wearing a t-shirt that says “Leukemia Warrior” on it.

Valery has beaten cancer and today dreams of becoming a chef.

“I’m happy again, and I am happier than before because I finished all my treatment,” said Valery. “I dream of being a chef!”

For this brave little girl and her parents, the steadfast support of their Compassion centre—knowing they had someone fighting by their side—made an enormous difference physically, financially, emotionally and spiritually.

“We’re extremely grateful to the centre and all the Compassion donors. Because of their help, Valery was able to get her treatment, her life has changed, and we are learning to live with another perspective of life,” said Yesenia.

Your gifts can support families in poverty facing major medical diagnoses.

Give now


Words by Alejandra Zuniga and Alyssa Esparaz. Photos and field reporting by Alejandra Zuniga.

Compassion Canada

Compassion Canada