Pixel Tracker

Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 10:04 pm | Overcast 60º


Family, Friends Rally Behind Infant Battling Leukemia

Violet Esparza will mark her first birthday with a second round of chemotherapy treatments at Cottage Children's Hospital

Gillian Esparza is planning a low-key celebration for her daughter’s first birthday, an occasion that typically would be spent surrounded by decorations and droves of family, friends and gifts that would elicit smiles and giggles from the easygoing baby.

Instead, on Aug. 18, tiny, dark-haired Violet will be in a bed at Cottage Children's Hospital for her second round of chemotherapy treatments to combat a form of leukemia.

What the infant has been through the past few months makes the one-year milestone that much more special, which is one of several positives Gillian Esparza has chosen to take away from the situation in which her Lompoc family has found themselves.

“We’re probably going to be back in the hospital, which is, in a way, probably a good thing,” the mother said. “She’s not really supposed to be around big crowds.”

Esparza, who is a native of Santa Barbara, along with her husband, Luis, said she first noticed something was off about Violet in June when a cold seemed to hit the youngest of her four children harder than other kids.

Violet was uncharacteristically fussy, needy and anxious, which doctors thought might be due to separation anxiety or teething.

Baby Violet, surrounded by her family, spent six weeks in the hospital before she was recently allowed a short reprieve at home. (Kara Block / Kara Block Photography)

Esparza said she was also especially grateful for soon after having taken Violet for routine vaccinations, which pushed her immune system into overdrive and caused more unusual symptoms — lethargy, yellow jaundice coloring and inconsolable crying — and led her to seek medical help.

At 10 months, Violent was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the white blood cells.

Violet immediately started chemotherapy and spent six weeks in the hospital before she was recently allowed a short reprieve at home, which is also a chance for the Esparzas to be together and not carting their other children — 7, 5 and 2 — back and forth from a hotel room.

Esparza said generous donations from family, friends and the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation paid for the hotel.

“She really is feeling a lot better in general,” Esparza said of Violet. “She’s not in as much pain as she was. She’s kind of back to herself. She just laughs and giggles. She’s very cheerful for what she’s going through in the hospital.” 

Violet is home for what will hopefully be at least 10 days before she goes back to Cottage to pick up where her two-year treatment plan left off.

The Esparzas are hopeful for steady recovery, noting that ALL is the most treatable form of infant cancer and that survival rates are high.

The family is chronicling Violet’s health status via a blog and “We Love Violet Lucia” Facebook page.

“It’s definitely overwhelming,” Esparza said of her daughter's battle with cancer. “No baby should have to be going through that. I purposefully went into a survival mode. Everyone that we’ve had contact with has been amazing.

“Everybody has told us that the very first round (of chemo) is the hardest. The second time around I don’t think it will be any easier on her … but maybe emotionally we’ll all have a better idea of what to expect.”

The parents said they’re extremely grateful for the support of caring friends and family, who are raising money for Violet’s hospital bills via a GoFundMe page.

The Esparzas also hope to raise awareness and encourage everyone to donate blood to their local blood banks because similar donations have undoubtedly saved Violet’s life.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.