GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – A cancer diagnosis for a child can be a nightmare for families – one that many in the Tri-Cities face.

One Greeneville family said having care close to home has made a big difference and has helped them focus on the future.

“She always loved playing outside basketball. Always outside. Then she started getting sick around August, and from there on, she just kept getting a virus,” Heather Bobadilla said.

In December 2021, Bobadilla heard the words no parent ever wants to hear about her then-four-year-old daughter, Emiliana, after she saw a new doctor who performed blood tests.

“Within five minutes, he came back in the room and he said, ‘I think I need you to go to Niswonger [Children’s Hospital] in Johnson City immediately,'” said Bobadilla. “He said, ‘I think it’s leukemia.'”

The tests confirmed that Emiliana has B-CELL Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

“That night, we were sent to Memphis on a plane, and we arrived at 9 p.m. in Memphis. And she immediately had blood transfusions, platelet transfusions,” said Bobadilla.

Emiliana and her mom, Heather, spent three months at St. Jude before being able to continue treatment closer to their home in Greeneville.

“It’s a lot better because Niswonger is only about 45-50 minutes away to drive, and they take really good care of her and she’s not scared to go,” said Bobadilla.

While the road ahead is long, continuing chemotherapy and seeing specialists in the Tri-Cities helps to ease the burden.

“If you donate, it helps support families like me and Emiliana, too. When you have no means to be out of work, it helps you be out and stay with your child while they’re sick,” said Bobadilla.

The local treatment allows children like Emiliana and their families to focus on getting better.

“We’re going to ring that bell one day, and then she can go outside and start playing her basketball and stuff, with the energy again,” said Bobadilla.

Emiliana still has about a year and a half of treatments left to go, her family said.

On March 2 and 3, News Channel 11 will partner with Niswonger Children’s Network for its annual Radiothon to raise money for the region’s only pediatric hospital. You can donate early online by clicking here.