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Father and Daughter Shared Cancer Journey Ends at Dodger Stadium

luis_jazmin_diaz_dodgers_first_pitch

When Luis Diaz was diagnosed with leukemia at age 16, he never imagined that his daughter would face a similar battle more than a decade later.

Luis’ daughter, Jazmine, then age 2, was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue around the bones. Luis and his wife, Jeanette, turned to the same care team at UCLA Health that had treated Luis 16 years earlier. In an unusual twist, the Los Angeles Dodgers played a role in both of their healing journeys.

Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
In 2002, former Dodgers’ pitcher Eric Gagne visited Luis during his life-saving treatment at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center.

When Luis was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, he believed his odds of survival were grim, and he resisted going through treatment. His mother, Maria Guadalupe Alvarado, convinced him to seek care at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center after giving up on his first round of chemotherapy at another Los Angeles hospital. Not only did he receive life-saving support from UCLA’s care team, an added boost was when former Dodgers’ pitcher Eric Gagne visited his beside one day and connected with him through their mutual love of baseball. In a roller-coaster-ride of treatment, Luis, who initially thought he had only two months to live, had defied the odds for 17 years as a husband and father to four young children.

Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
Luis (third from the right) with Dodger-great, Manny Mota during a pre-game ceremony at Dodger Stadium.

Just at Luis’ resilience surprised his doctors, Jazmine’s journey has been one of uncertainty and remarkable progress. Soon after she underwent surgery to remove malignant tumors in her right pelvis, she lost her eyesight and ability to speak. Jazmine remained in a vegetative state for almost four months before waking up one afternoon in November 2018 to ask for a glass of water.

Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital

“I spent every day with her, waiting for any sign that showed that she was still there,” said Jeanette Diaz. “That afternoon when she said “agua”, I knew she would slowly come back to be the Jazmine we had before the sickness.”

Since then, she has been on the fast track to recovery: talking, eating, being able to see, and going to physical therapy to re-learn how to walk. Luis and Jazmine now share not only a remarkable story of strength and resilience, but she has developed the same love for the Dodgers as her father by watching Dodger games on television.

The Dodgers invited Jazmine, Luis, Jeanette, Maria Guadalupe, and two of Jazmine's siblings to participate in the opening ceremony at a recent Dodger game—the first the family had attended together. Taking the mound, Luis and Jazmine threw the first pitch together - a symbolic representation of their shared struggle against cancer and a celebration of Jazmine having no evidence of cancer.

This is their day at Dodger Stadium

The family was dressed in their best Dodger-blue gear and waited in anticipation to enter the stadium. The family rarely goes out and were a bit surprised by the celebrity treatment.
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
Jazmine showed off her blue bow and mini-me jersey. The family got a “golden ticket” to the field; or in this case, blue wristband, to head down to the field.
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
Dad held Jazmine, who has difficulty walking without assistance, during the afternoon. Despite the hot sun, the family is early to watch batting practice and were amazed by how close they were to their beloved Dodgers.
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
As batting practice ends, the players approached the family, snapping photos with Chris Taylor and Rich Hill, who signed the “Dodger Sarape.”
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
Mixed emotions as Jasmine struggles with the extra-warm temperatures — a reminder that she's able to be a child again.
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
Jasmine drinks some electrolytes while the family practices the ceremonial proclamation, "it's time for Dodger baseball!"
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
Unexpectedly, the family gets a special one-on-one meeting with Dodger’s Head Manager, Dave Roberts. Roberts offers Jazmine and her sibling's water, signs the “Dodger Sarape,” and Luis gets to sit behind the manager’s desk.
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
After meeting Dave Roberts, Jazmin and Luis get some "daddy-and-me" time, sneaking away for some “Dodger blue” popcorn ahead of the opening ceremonies.
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
Game time: on-field instructions kickoff pre-game jitters. The Diaz family takes the field.
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
Jazmine throws a couple of practice pitches with some of the Dodger players to warm up, and the family stands excitedly as the National Anthem is sung.
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
Jazmine successfully throws the first pitch with a burst of energy. Everyone on the field congratulates her, including some fellow Dodgers players who called it a strike!
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
After much practice earlier, the family is ready to say the five words near-and-dear to every baseball-loving Angelino: “It’s time for Dodger baseball!”
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
As they walk off the field by the dugout, Dave Roberts extends a special congratulation to Jazmine on her great pitch, and waves bye to the family.
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
Luis and Jazmin Diaz - Pediatric Cancer Story - UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
The family is escorted back to their seats. After a long afternoon, they are in all smiles, ready to enjoy their first game together.

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