Editor's note: September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and in the U.S., approximately 13,000 children under the age of 21 are diagnosed with cancer every year. To spotlight the month, The Empire-Tribune is catching up with one of its favorite local families - the Esquivels - whose child Riley, who turns 1 on Sept. 10, is beating a diagnosis of his own.
It's been a long, painful - and sometimes joyous - journey for Jerry and Rachel Esquivel. In November 2012, their seven-week-old son Riley was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer that occurs in the developing cells of the symphonic nervous system.
The news sent a wave of terror through the young couple who also have an older son Jayden.
"Hearing your child has cancer are words you never think you will have to hear," Jerry said. "It was devastating, but we knew we needed to be strong and do everything we could to help Riley."
Jerry is a coach and teacher at Stephenville High School and Rachel is a kindergarten teacher at Central Elementary.
Following Riley's diagnosis, the family was overwhelmed with support.
"The community of Stephenville and our school district have been amazing through this journey," Rachel said. "Their prayers, love and support have been such a blessing to our family."
Much of this past year has also been spent in and out of hospitals, where Riley underwent four rounds of chemotherapy, multiple scans and MRIs.
But on July 9, after the oncologist reviewed Riley's latest scan, the family got news it had been praying for - Riley was cancer free.
"It was an amazing feeling to hear this after all we had been through," Jerry said. "We feel so blessed at how well he is doing and how his body responded to chemo."
Riley is an active toddler and busy crawling "everywhere," Rachel said.
He still has monthly checkups and regular scans, but the family is hopeful the difficulty is behind them.
Now, they want to focus their attention on bringing attention to childhood cancer.
"We feel it is now our job to inform people of neuroblastoma and help other families affected by the disease," Rachel said. "It's hard to believe all of this has happened in less than a year. It's good to be getting back to normal."