Kirsten Fajardo, 11, often described by teachers as an “exemplary student,” couldn't wait to begin school. But just one day after the start of the new school year, Kristen received the devastating news that she has a cancerous, inoperable tumor on her brain stem.
"She is very brave,” Kristen’s mother, Liza Fajardo, 43, said of her daughter.
Since June, Kristen has suffered from headaches, vomiting, and blurred vision. On Sept. 4, the same day she started Secondary school — which typically begins at age 11 in England and Wales — Kristen went to see an eye doctor. The ophthalmologist who treated her noticed a “problem” with her left eye and subsequently referred her to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, West Yorks, for an MRI, according to South West News Service (SWNS), a British news agency.
The scan revealed a tumor — specifically diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) — on Kristen’s brain stem. Two days later, Kristen and her family were informed the tumor is inoperable.
“She is a very sweet girl and caring and loving,” her mother told the outlet. "When I'm sad she will comfort me. She loves to hug and hugs everyone.”
DIPG tumors are known for behaving aggressively, according to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Surgery to remove the tumor is rare; the location often prevents surgeons from removing it safely. The survival rate for patients diagnosed with DIPG is low.
In an effort to shrink the tumor, Kristen is slated to undergo six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, per SWNS.
"She is very close to her brother Sean. Her brother is like me, he is heartbroken, too,” Liza said, noting her daughter is no longer in school.
“I'm exhausted, but I just need to stay strong for her.”