Zoe Figueroa had much to celebrate on June 30. The date marked Figueroa’s 8th birthday — and her final treatment for stage 4 neuroblastoma.
After 16 months of chemo, stem-cell transplants, radiation, surgeries and immunotherapy, Figueroa deserved a toy store’s worth of L.O.L. Surprise! dolls. But the rising third-grader from Lakeside, California decided she wanted to donate her birthday presents to Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center.
“Zoe is remarkable,” her mom, Sheena Figueroa, told TODAY Parents. “She said to me, ‘I have everything I need.’”
On the invitations for the July 6 bash, Zoe requested that in lieu of gifts, people bring an unwrapped toy or make charitable donations to local foundations for children with neuroblastoma. Zoe's guests came through to the sum of $750 dollars and 200 toys.
“It’s our way of giving back while celebrating Zoe’s life,” Sheena explained to TODAY Parents.
The over-the-top party, held at a VFW hall in El Cajon, California, was one that Zoe will never forget. Sheena and her husband, Freddie, hired face painters, balloon artists and a mobile gaming truck. Zoe wore a puffy gold and white princess-style dress that she picked out herself.
It was a bittersweet day for Sheena, who wanted the event to feel like a quinceañera, which is a Hispanic tradition of celebrating a girl’s coming of age on her 15 birthday.
“We don’t know what the future holds for Zoe. The relapse rate for neuroblastoma is 50 percent, and there’s no cure for relapsed neuroblastoma,” she told TODAY Parents. “We’re optimistic, but we wanted to pull out all the bells and whistles just in case.”
Though Sheena is no longer logging hours at the hospital, she is in touch with other cancer parents, including a couple who learned their child had neuroblastoma on the day Zoe was pronounced cancer-free. "We talk regularly. I know they are scared just like we were," Sheena said. "I keep telling them there's hope."