Teen sick with cancer goes home to a house without heat, hot water or power

Dec 14, 2023, 6:08 PM | Updated: 6:44 pm

OREM — A 14-year-old Orem girl battling cancer is home from the hospital just in time for Christmas, but that home is without heat, gas, or power because of the cost of the treatments.

Special education teacher Mariah Estrada said Karina Santiago Marquez is more than a pleasure to have in her class.

“She was one of the students (who) would stay after class and chat with me; she would help clean up the classroom,” Estrada said.

A school photo of Karina Estrada (Courtesy: Mariah Estrada)

She says the 14-year-old is tough after the pain she’s been through in the last few years. It wasn’t until recently that doctors figured out a diagnosis.

“They rushed her to Primary Children’s (Hospital) right away, and the next day she started chemotherapy,” Estrada said.

Estrada said Marquez has a rare form of cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma, that affects her spine and nerves. Marquez was diagnosed with three tumors, one affecting her ability to walk.

“They’re trying to get the tumor smaller so they can perform surgery,” she said.

But the doctors are letting Marquez go home for the holidays to be with her family.

“As scary as the hospital can be, it was nice to have those necessities that you need for life,” Estrada said.

However, what should be a warm homecoming is, instead, a tough adjustment for her family.

“Karina’s coming home to no power and electricity,” Estrada said.

Estrada said Marquez’s mother had to quit her job to take her daughter back home. Without an income and payments piling up, Marquez’s family isn’t able to pay all of their bills.

“All the teachers wanted to figure out, how can we help her?” Estrada said.

14-year-old Karina Estrada (left) with her family.

14-year-old Karina Estrada (left) with her family. (Courtesy: Mariah Estrada)

The teachers partnered with Christmas for Cancer Families,* a nonprofit that provides gifts and goods to families with sick loved ones.

“They haven’t been able to cover their gas and electricity bill, so with the generous donations from the community, we plan (to) provide that service,” said Levi Culley with Christmas for Cancer Families.

Estrada lives with her mom and younger sister. She is currently using a wheelchair, making it harder for the family to get her where she needs to go.

“It’s really awkward and uncomfortable trying to get her from school to a car to a car to home from the car into the home without a wheelchair ramp,” Culley said.

He said neighbors are stepping in to help out where they can, but Marquez’s family still needs help.

“When they need power, their neighbors have offered to run a power chord over to their home to power their appliances and whatnot,” Culley said.

Cully said any amount of money can be sent to the nonprofit’s website*, Venmo, or someone can offer their services to help the family. The nonprofit and teachers want to help create that holiday magic for this teen and her family.

“Christmas time is seriously the most magical moment in a kid’s life,” Cully said.

*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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Teen sick with cancer goes home to a house without heat, hot water or power