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Brave little Rhaina: A 2-year-old's courageous fight against cancer

Rarely in life is there a miracle. But for Rhaina and her family, this brave young warrior's life was a miracle in itself. For while she did not recover from the disease, her spirit was a testament of endurance, and the inspiration her short life imparted to others was and is simply miraculous.

WARNING: Graphic images ahead

She was Rhaina Keila Boada Padilla also known as Brave Little Rhaina. And at just two years of age, she endured more pain than many of us will ever experience in a lifetime.

Rhaina, a Baguio resident, succumbed to an aggressive form of cancer on July 2, 2016, after battling the disease for two years.

But despite her suffering, Rhaina remained strong--determined to live a long life and excited to celebrate her third birthday.

Until her very last moments, when she could hardly speak, Rhaina was undefeated--even managing to bid farewell to her parents with the sweetest reminder of her love.

"At the moment...She is touching my face...Kahit hirap n siya nasabi pa din niyang (even though she was suffering so much, she still managed to say) I love you mommy I love you daddy," Rhaina's mother said on Facebook on July 1. The post, which showed Rhaina touching her mom's face as her dad and mom held her, has since been deleted.

Rhaina's bravery

"Despite her situation, she acted like a normal child. She said she will get healed and wanted to live a long life," Rhaina's mother shared in another Facebook post.

Rhaina was born on December 25, 2013. She was a happy, intelligent baby, who loved to play and discover new things.

When Rhaina was 11 months old, her mother noticed something strange in her left eye. It looked like a reflection of light in the pupil--the way a cat's eyes look at night.

The doctor's shocking discovery on the next page.

A consultation with the doctor on January 5, 2015 revealed a shocking fact. Rhaina's left eye had gone blind!

"I [didn't] know what to feel [or] do...I cried," Rhaina's mom recounted.

At her 11th month, we noticed a strange reflection in Rhaina's left eye. It resembled like a cat's eye at night. It has...

Posted by Brave Little Rhaina on Thursday, June 30, 2016

Further tests were needed to determine the cause of blindness. A CT-Scan soon after revealed that Rhaina had Rhetinoblastoma, a malignant tumor in the eye that primarily strikes young children.

On January 23, 2015, Rhaina underwent surgery to remove her left eye. Her parents had hoped to spare Rhaina from the ravages of chemotherapy, but two weeks later, doctors informed them that the cancer had already spread, and that chemo would be needed.

Prior to chemo, Rhaina had to go through painful procedures like bone marrow aspiration, where a hole is drilled into the bone in order to extract soft tissue samples.

"Ang makita siyang matusok ay nakakapanghina sa amin...eventually nakaya naman niya. At that point pa [lang], naipakita na niya sa [aming] lahat na [napaka-brave] niyang baby. Nakita na namin sa kanya ang katapangan at katatagan," a post on Facebook reads.

("To watch her being poked made us feel weak...but she eventually overcame the ordeal. At that point, as early as then, she showed us how very brave she was. We saw bravery and strength in her.")

Rhaina finished her first 6-cycle chemotherapy on September 25, 2015.

But by October, the cancer was back, and Rhaina had to endure another bone marrow aspiration and more chemo at a higher dose.

From December 2015 to March 2016, Rhaina shuttled back and forth between her home and the hospital for her chemo sessions. But that did not stop her from enjoying her Hello Kitty-themed 2nd birthday party.

Chemo, however, did not heal Rhaina. Her cancer continued to ravage her body. Soon she had stage 4 cancer, prompting her parents to make the difficult decision of stopping her chemo treatments.

"Hirap na hirap na siya at lalo humina (she was having such a hard time already and had gotten weaker) so we decided to stop her chemotherapy," Rhaina's mother said.

Next: Rhaina's mom is terrified


From that point on, all Rhaina's parents could do was to ease her pain as best as they could, and make her happy.

In May, Rhaina and her parents went on their last family outing. They went to "Pugad", where Rhaina was ecstatic over all the new things and animals she saw.

By June, Rhaina's mom was shocked at how fast the tumor was growing. In less than a month, the tumor spread to Rhaina's chest, face, left arm, and neck. Her sense of smell and ability to speak were also affected, and she could not balance her head, which had doubled in size.

"Terrified at how fast the tumor was growing," reads a Facebook update.

Rhaina photographed in May (left) and in June (right). Photo: Brave Little Rhaina Rhaina photographed in May 2016 (left) and in June 2016 (right). Photo: Brave Little Rhaina

"It's very hard to look at my daughter who suffers so much. Araw-araw may pagbabago ang kanyang itchura (The way she looks changes every day). She can't even speak clearly, she can't walk...she can't hear normally...", Rhaina's mom said.

JULY 01, 2016
Lovingly Father, please help and heal my little daughter.

She cannot see anymore,,,, the lump beside...

Posted by Brave Little Rhaina on Thursday, June 30, 2016

"For the first time, she said her head was very very painful," Rhaina's mom also said in another Facebook update.

Rhaina was in terrible pain, and she took to pinching and squeezing her body, desperate to get rid of the pain. Her only comfort was the feel of her mother's face that she would often caress.

Missing Rhaina

Less than 24 hours after reassuring her parents of her love, Rhaina passed away.

"Goodbye Brave Little Rhaina,,,,, we will miss you,,,, we love you.... You will always stay here in our hearts,,, to inspire us and to keep our faith [in] God," was the family's farewell message to her.

Rarely in life is there a miracle. But for Rhaina and her family, this young brave warrior's life was a miracle in itself. For while she did not recover from the disease, her spirit was a testament of endurance, and the inspiration her short life imparted to others was and is simply miraculous.

Read: Brave young dad’s 3-year battle with rare cancer is still a race against time

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