In 2010, Maria Vasquez-Rojas and her family received a mixed blessing: Maria found out she was pregnant with her first child, but shortly afterward was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer.
Maria and her younger brother, Francisco Vasquez, came to StoryCorps in Los Angeles to remember how these two events changed their family in unexpected ways.
Click here for the transcript.
Francisco Vasquez: (FV): And screamed at the same time.
MVR: Everybody thought I couldn't get pregnant, you know?
FV: Because you'd been trying for so long already.
MVR: I'd been trying for so long. That was one of my happiest moments.
FV: That's one of the happiest days of my life too. What was it like when you first saw Ellie?
MVR: She was wrapped up like a little tamale.
MVR: And she was just so beautiful.
FV: Ellie's just been a miracle to our family. Because the family we were before to the family that we are now, it's completely different. Back then I was not in a good place. I was addicted to meth, stealing. And then, after you had Ellie and you were going through your chemotherapy, I would come on my days off and our parents would come. Having Ellie around, she was able to pull me out of the dark moments.
MVR: It's been weird, because yes, as long as we've had Ellie--
FV: Cancer has been there too.
MVR: And if I had not gone in for that ultrasound, they would have never caught it. She saved my life.
FV: I'm always amazed at how strong you are, because--not that it makes my problems seem less--but it kind of puts things in perspective for me.
MVR: I know, but I want to tell you, Frankie, that I am just so proud of you. You've grown up to be such a wonderful man, a wonderful human being. And I know you don't like to hear this, but if one day I'm not here, you have to be there for Ellie so that she feels her mom and what her mom represents, and that's going to be you.
FV: And I promise you that this change has been forever and it's made me who I really am. I just...I hope Ellie grows up and she realizes that she came into this world, and just by that, she has already accomplished so much.