by KELLEY GUSICH | photos by Alan Smith Photography

Strong Survivor

In the fall of 2017, nine-year-old Sarah Loza started to experience unexplained electrical shocks to the forehead, severe body pain, and night sweats. Diagnosed with Stage 4 Burkitt’s Lymphoma, she had to find her bravery and maturity, and grow up very quickly. “I was relieved when the diagnosis was found,” Sarah explained, “and nervous to begin treatment.”

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Sarah’s family has lived in PQ for 18 years, and while they enjoy everything about the area – from proximity to the canyon and beach to great schools – they really love their community for all the ways they showed support for Sarah during her treatments. “Our neighbor Maureen Nevarez created a meal train, and my school Deer Canyon Elementary and the PQ community dropped off delicious meals, along with monetary donations and loving cards and letters,” she said. “My soccer coach John Antione put together an amazing fundraiser with the San Diego Soccer Club and Fresco Pizzeria to raise funds for medical bills.” The list of helpers grew: Support Young Athletes raised money for physical therapy to get Sarah back to playing soccer. Her piano teacher, Megan Glee, came every week to continue lessons or just to keep her encouraged if she was too weak to play. Her fourth grade teacher, Rosemary Richards, gave Sarah home lessons. “Her loving dedication and grandmotherly approach motivated and encouraged me,” Sarah affirmed. “I miss her daily visits.” Mrs. Rosemary also put together a fundraiser with Dream Dinners to help with medical bills.

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Name: Sarah Giselle Loza (10)
School: Deer Canyon Elementary
Grade: 4
Parents: Miguel and Maribel Loza
Siblings: Arianna (13) and Julieta (5)
Favorite Subjects: Math and science (fun when it all makes sense)
Favorite Places in 92129: Sundance Park, Wonderful Sushi, Rite Aid, YMCA, Golden Spoon, and Golden Bagel


Fortunately, Sarah overcame her battle with cancer and is now in remission. “I am grateful to be alive today,” she said. “I thank God and my oncology team at Rady Children’s Hospital for healing my body.” Sarah and her mother are now giving back to her friends still battling cancer at Rady by creating two programs – a connection technique using walkie-talkies called Chatting With Champs, and Get to Know You Jenga, where questions pasted on each Jenga piece are used to initiate engagement and conversation. “Our hope is to help kids who are going through chemo treatments by connecting them with other champs and lift their spirits during a time when they feel isolated, trapped, and alone.”

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Sarah is now focused on regaining her strength and returning to normal life. Soccer, swimming, dancing, singing, piano, slime making, and reading top her list of interests. “I have two sisters and a dog, and I want to get stronger to keep up with them and enjoy my life.” Sarah’s “Nana,” Patricia Arce, was always her inspiration. “She showed me what courage and bravery was when she was going through treatments for Stage 4 leiomyosarcoma.”

Unfortunately, Sarah’s Nana lost her battle just eight months before Sarah’s diagnosis, but the love and lessons have remained strong. “I have learned that we should live each day as if it’s our last day, be happy, and give back.” Sarah and her family are hosting lemonade stands for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Stop by 8900 Twin Trails Dr. on Sept. 8 and 15 from 3 to 5 p.m.