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Celebrating a milestone: Life exists after cancer for an El Paso girl, even in a pandemic

Hailee Ozaeta
El Paso Children's Hospital
Hailee Ozaeta, left, smiles ahead of her port removal surgery.

EL PASO, Texas -- Trying to maneuver through life during a pandemic while healthy is hard enough.

Ahead of National Cancer Survivor Day on June 7, ABC-7 is highlighting one young El Paso girl in particular who is celebrating a victory over cancer during this tough time.

"I couldn't believe it," said Hailee Ozaeta, 11, when asked how she felt when she learned that she was officially finished with chemotherapy. "I was so shocked."

In March 2018, Ozaeta was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow that affects white blood cells. She was declared cancer-free in June of that year, but still had a two-year chemotherapy treatment plan ahead of her.

On May 26, doctors removed the implanted port in her chest.

"When they were were bringing me in, I broke down," Ozaeta said. "I don't need any more treatment. I'm done with everything."

Dr. Lisa Hartman, a pediatric oncologist at El Paso Children's Hospital, said Ozaeta took part in a clinical trial while fighting cancer.

"She'll be able to help other kids in the future," said Dr. Hartman. "We will be able to report how she did and learn from her treatment during the clinical trials to make treatments even better."

Ozaeta, who is rarely without a smile, is proving there is hope for others and that there is life after cancer -- even during a pandemic.

She and Hartman said they are looking forward to a return to normal operations at El Paso Children's Hospital so they can celebrate Ozaeta's port removal together with the hospital staff.

Meantime, Hartman encouraged patients undergoing treatment to continue to keep their hospital appointments during the pandemic and that there are numerous safety measures in place.

The Ozaeta family is using their experience to shine a light on the needs of families trying to help their child overcome a cancer diagnosis. Candlelighters of El Paso provides help in many forms to families; Sandra Ozaeta is also promoting the foundation Gold Out El Paso, which is trying to raise awareness about childhood cancer by promoting the individual stories of the children who are affected.

El Paso / News / Video

Stephanie Valle

Stephanie Valle co-anchors ABC-7 at 5, 6 and 10 weeknights.

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