When you first meet 27 year old Benise Sigala, what strikes you most about her is hergrace, her peaceful demeanor and her bright, joyful eyes!
The picture of health, this young and vibrant wife and mother of two young children, was overcome in June 2014 with extreme fatigue and severe headaches that were constant. Benise, who was working as a cashier in a restaurant, was completely taken aback by these debilitating symptoms and saw a doctor in her hometown of Corpus Christi, TX who treated her with several blood transfusions. Her fatigue and headaches persisted with “terrible ups and downs and awful waiting” and she sought a second opinion one month later. Everyone was working on the day of her appointment, so Leander, her eight year old son, was her companion. The doctor broke the devastating news to Benise that she had leukemia(ALS) and that she was very sick! Never did she imagine such a diagnosis or that her young son would be her rock that day, comforting and encouraging her, saying “Mom, it’s going to be OK!”
Wasting no time, Benise’s doctor immediately referred her to MD Anderson in Houston. Benise and Daniel then made the daunting decision to move, quit their jobs and completely focus on her treatment and recovery. Benise did not have any medical insurance but was approved by Medicaid within two weeks! Benise was seen at MD Anderson on September 14, 2015 and quickly started on chemotherapy two days later. She was doing well.
Then, approximately 10 months later, Benise was told she needed a stem cell transplant which “was very hard for me to hear” she says. So, on June 30 of this year she had the transplant, and again, never imagined that her fourteen year old sister, Priscilla, “who hates needles and blood”, would be her lifeline as her brave donor! The transplant went well.
Today, the chemotherapy and her intravenous port have been discontinued. Benise’s incredible Mom cares for and brings Leander for weekend visits every two weeks. Daniel, thankfully, found a full time job as a truck rigger in Houston. The first two months in Houston were spent in hotels which was “very expensive and stressful” Benise says. “The warm and caring Halo House staff have been a tremendous help to us because affordable housing is super important and we feel that our apartment is safe and just like home, we have everything we need, we love it,” she says. “My kids enjoy the pool and we really like the beautiful grounds outside our door, it’s like a park!”
Reflecting on her experience, and so gratefully looking forward to her daughter, Ximena’s second birthday, Benise says the relationships with her parents deepened. Her Dad traveled from Mexico to spend four months with her at the beginning of her treatment, “which was very special”, she says. “My husband, Daniel never showed that he was scared, always strong and very positive and loving, we are all closer because of this experience, so that is a good thing!”