His symptoms started two years ago while on a family vacation. Thirteen-year-old Manuel Sanchez Paniagua was increasingly tired, and his stomach hurt. His parents thought he must have caught a stomach bug on the trip, so when they got back to their home in Mexico City, they brought Manuel to the doctor. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just a stomach bug.
Physicians told the family that Manuel had a rare cancerous tumor in his liver called hepatoblastoma. When they went in to biopsy the tumor to confirm the diagnosis, they accidentally caused severe internal bleeding, and Manuel ended up in the ICU for a week.
A second opinion
Once he recovered from the biopsy, Manuel began chemotherapy for the tumor. A month later when the tumor had not shrunk as expected, Manuel’s parents decided it was time to get a second opinion, but from where?
“In Mexico, you ask around for the best hospital in the world, and the aunt of the friend of the cousin of the brother knows,” laughs Manuel’s father, Hector Sanchez Castillo. On the advice of the “aunt of the friend of the cousin of his brother,” Hector called Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and spoke to Dr. Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo. “He told us that the tumor was not the one that we thought it was—it was worse. There are bad tumors, and there are really bad tumors. This was one of the really bad ones.” …