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4-year-old, family face leukemia with help from Golisano Children’s Hospital

Four-year-old Gabriel Hooks always wears his fuzzy T-rex slippers on treatment day.

He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2019, so the trips to Golisano Children’s Hospital have become routine.

He gets a wheelchair, too, because the chemotherapy wipes him out.

“At the beginning, I spent many nights crying just because he’s my child, and I see him going through it, but I don’t know how it feels,” said Laticia Cardenas, Gabriel’s mother.

Gabriel has a big brother and an identical twin – three boys with one parent who juggles two jobs in the face of one overwhelming diagnosis.

(Left) Gabriel Hooks with his two brothers. Credit: Shared with WINK News.

“I have to explain to him all the time why their hair doesn’t look the same,” Laticia said. “When this first happened, the first thing that popped into my head was ‘How am I gonna do this?'”

The children’s hospital employs a full-time social worker because of the comprehensive change wrought by cancer on the lives of affected families.

“One minute you’re living your normal life, and the next you find out your child has cancer,” said medical social worker Chelsea Cordaro. “That’s when I step in and see how I can help support them with trying to make ends meet.”

For Gabriel’s mom, that kind of support means more time to focus on her son.

“If I needed gas for his treatments and I know I honestly just did not have it, they supplied gas cards,” Laticia said. “If I needed groceries, they supplied Walmart gift cards. There have been times where I honestly could not make a payment on my car insurance or a light bill, and as long as I have the paperwork that’s needed, they have helped.”

When not in treatment, Gabriel can still recover a little’s kid energy for running and playing. He turns five soon and will finish treatment in time for his 7th birthday.

Gabriel Hooks. Credit: Shared with WINK News.

His mom is going back to school to become a nurse, with hopes of working at Golisano. She wants to help other kids and their parents the way she is being helped.

“Everybody here, they stand by you,” Laticia said. “I love this hospital. And if I had to choose again, it would be here.”

Anyone who wants want to help families like Gabriel’s can donate to the nonprofit Barbara’s Friends, which ensures no child is denied treatment or turned away as a result of their family’s inability to pay for care. Barbara’s Friends use donations to purchase gas cards and gift cards for groceries to help families make ends meet.

Donations can be made by visiting BarbarasFriends.org/ClipsForCancer.

Reporter:Amanda Hall
Writer:Joey Pellegrino
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