HUNTLEY – The word “believe” means a lot to 17-year-old Huntley High School student Jessica Diaz.
Diaz was going down the stairs before heading to Huntley High School orientation before her freshman year when she broke her femur. Doctors discovered she had osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in her right leg at 14 years old, and she has since had three bouts of cancer.
This spring, she went through a clinical trial. At her follow-up scan, she was feeling strong and well, family friend Brenda Kardys said. But at the end of July, Kardys said they were shocked to find the cancer had spread to Diaz’s lung.
Two fundraisers will be held Saturday in Huntley and Union to benefit the Diaz family, whose medical problems don’t stop with Jessica.
Jessica’s mother, Mary, has had numerous strokes, leaving her in need of a wheelchair and with cognitive difficulties.
To make matters worse, Diaz’s father, Eugenio, received news that the company he works for is closing its doors Sept. 15. He has worked there for more than 15 years and received insurance benefits from the company, Kardys said.
“Sometimes you want to scream ‘enough!’ ” said Kardys, of Algonquin.
Jessica told Kardys that she has to believe that things will get better for her and her family, and that she can’t just hope and wait, but she has to believe it in her heart.
With financial concerns about Jessica and Mary’s medical conditions and lost insurance, two events will be held Saturday to support the Diaz family.
A “Rock Cancer Out” event will be from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday at Parkside Pub, 11721 Main St., Huntley, featuring live entertainment throughout the day from Jim and Justin from the Modern Day Romeos, Bad Medicine Unplugged and Cascade Drive. Raffles, a silent auction and 50/50 raffle also are planned.
The event was organized by Opening Doors with Teagan, an organization founded in honor of Teagan Grace Haniszewski, who was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. Teagan’s mother, Carly, now hosts events and fundraisers to help other families with cancer.
Proceeds from the Festival at the Farm from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Martin Family Farm, 16601 Coral Road, Union, will go to It’s All About Kids, an organization that helps families with medical bills and will support the Diaz family.
The festival will include hayrides, bands, pumpkin carvings, games, raffles and a silent auction.
If someone cannot make the event but wishes to donate, they can make checks payable to “Opening Doors with Teagan” and drop them off at Parkside or at The Freeze, 140 S. Virginia Road, Crystal Lake.
Kardys said the family is private, and the sense of community has been eye-opening.
“They couldn’t believe that anyone who did not even know them would help, but they did,” she said. “They were in tears and thought there was no way this would happen.”
Jessica is working at an advanced pace in school to try to make up for the time she’s missed during chemotherapy. Her No. 1 goal is to be able to graduate in May with her twin sister, Jennifer. In between it all, she also is working at Butera Market.
“This is a 16-year-old child trying to navigate through high school and is being bombarded with this,” said Katherine Ratner, co-organizer of “Rock Out for Cancer.” “I can’t even fathom what this family is going through and the fear of losing the mom’s ability to be who she was for a long time for them.”
Community members in Huntley also have been helping out by preparing home-cooked meals for the family each night, Ratner said.