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Julian in hospital bed smiling

It was a hot August day in Morelia, Mexico, when Anahi’s world turned upside down.

Her then-3-year-old son, Julian, was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a rare childhood cancer that starts in the liver.

“The initial chemotherapy didn’t help, so we traveled to Mexico City for more treatment,” Anahi recalls through an interpreter. “But the doctors there determined that his tumor was so advanced it was spreading to other organs. They told me to take Julian home and to enjoy him. They gave him about two months to live.”

“We went home with our spirits crushed,” Anahi continues. “I was depressed, just so sad. My sister, who lives in the United States, saw how I was, and she wanted to bring Julian here for a second opinion.”

That’s when your support of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford enters Julian and Anahi’s story. Because of your generous gifts to the Lucile Packard Children’s Fund, families in Northern California and far beyond receive hope.

In February 2023, Julian traveled more than 2,100 miles to our hospital and into the care of oncologist and renowned solid-tumor researcher Raya Saab, MD. Julian’s adult sister, Zita, came to those early appointments, and Packard Children’s social worker Julia Granski, MSW, worked quickly to get Anahi’s paperwork completed so she could join her son in California and meet his care team.

“When Julian arrived at our Bass Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Diseases, the family had been told there was no hope for him, but they were seeking a last-chance effort,” Saab says. “The team here at Packard Children’s, led through a collaborative multidisciplinary approach between Oncology and Liver Transplant, in coordination with Radiology and Pathology, developed a plan for Julian with a goal towards cure.”

Family-Centered Care

Anahi says that the transition was difficult at first. “Julian arrived very, very traumatized with doctors and nurses in general, from our experience in Mexico. Whenever he saw someone in a doctor’s outfit, he would get scared. But the way the Packard Children’s doctors treat him, the way they and the nurses communicate with him, everyone is so very kind.”

“Dr. Saab took the time to explain everything to us—what could happen, what couldn’t happen, the type of treatment he was going to start receiving,” Anahi says. “And when she saw that treatment was not going as she would’ve hoped, she and the Liver Transplant team decided he needed a transplant. We really owe them Julian’s life.”

Anahi spent months in the hospital by Julian’s side. Her husband and teenage son are still in Mexico and unable to visit. Julian, who celebrated his fourth birthday in the hospital, still has a lot of treatment ahead, so it will be a long time before the family is reunited.

“But when I see Julian, when I see that he’s getting better, when I see that every day he’s improving, everything is worth it. We have come a long way since he was given two months to live,” Anahi says.

Saab agrees. “Seeing Julian make great progress, back to normal activity, and with a charming and playful attitude every time he comes to clinic, makes me so grateful that his family took the very courageous decision to travel thousands of miles in search of hope. I am so grateful to be part of the team that could answer their call,” she says.

Hopes for the Future

Just as important as a child’s medical care is their emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Your Children’s Fund donations ensure families like Julian’s have access to child life specialists, art and music therapists, chaplains, and more.

“He loves to go to the garden, and we also visit the Sanctuary,” Anahi says. “Chaplains come and speak with me in Spanish.” Anahi says she prays every day to get to see Julian grow up. She says he loves to learn and loves school. “I hope that he can go to school one day as a normal kid, that he can grow up, learn a lot, have a career, and hopefully have a family of his own.”

Anahi is grateful not only to Saab and Julian’s care team, but also for you, a supporter of the hospital that has done so much for her son.

“It’s very sad as a parent when your child has a diagnosis and you have no funds, no money for treatment or no other hope, like I had,” says Anahi. “Their donations are really miracles. It saves lives.”

Thank you for giving Julian a second chance, and for giving his family hope for a bright future.

Want to Help More Kids Like Julian?

Our hospital relies on philanthropy to ensure that all families, regardless of their financial circumstances, receive extraordinary care. To make a difference, visit

Julian playing with doctor

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of the Children’s Fund Update.

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