“Everybody in the UCSF hospital is amazing. They’re really there for us, they’re really there for the kids, and they had the best treatment for my son.”
— Javier, Alexis’ father
When 7-year-old Alexis began to get mysterious red lumps on his scalp and neck in February 2017, his father, Javier, became concerned. He took his son to see a doctor near their Santa Rosa home.
The diagnosis shocked him. What he thought might be a skin condition turned out to be cancer. “Everything changed,” he recalls.
Doctors determined that Alexis had Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare form of cancer that begins in cells that fight infection, causing the skin lesions that Alexis was experiencing.
Javier sought treatment for Alexis at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco. Doctors warned the family that Alexis’ prognosis was challenging, and he might not survive. But they immediately launched a fight as aggressive as Alexis’ cancer.
“Everybody at the UCSF hospital is amazing,” Javier says. “They’re really there for us, they’re really there for the kids, and they had the best treatment for my son.”
He was especially impressed by the staff’s tireless dedication to their patients &mdas; and by one gesture from Dr. Benjamin Huang, Alexis’ oncologist, in particular.
“I cannot believe the doctor gave me his personal cell phone number,” Javier recalls. “He said, ‘If you have any questions, you can call me. Even in the middle of the night, call me.’”
After undergoing four rounds of chemotherapy, Alexis, now 8, is in remission and back to doing things he loves, like playing basketball with his dad. Meanwhile, he continues regular phototherapy sessions at UCSF to treat lesions, which he still experiences.
For his part, Javier has begun actively fundraising for the hospital. He manages a Panda Express restaurant in Santa Rosa, which coincidentally conducts a major annual fundraising campaign for our hospitals.
When Alexis started treatment, the cause hit home for Javier, and he ramped up his efforts to encourage giving in his community. In 2017, Javier led his restaurant to become the No. 2 Panda Express fundraising location in the entire US.
It was his way of thanking UCSF and giving back. “I hope one day they find a cure for my son and all the people who have this disease,” Javier says.