MISSION — In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have longed to return to a state of normalcy. This Christmas, two children from Mission hope to return to a time when their parents were both healthy.

Rosaura Lira, a 48-year-old Mission resident said she has been caring for her husband Francisco Rodriguez, who is 43 and for the past five years has battled stomach cancer, kidney failure and a brain tumor.

Francisco was diagnosed with stomach cancer at 17 and five years ago, he was diagnosed with kidney failure, which puts him in dialysis three times a week for four hours a day.

He is currently on a waitlist for a kidney transplant and in June of this year, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which required surgery.

A gift hangs on the Christmas tree at Rosaura Lira’s home Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in La Joya. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

His body was the weakest it had ever been after the surgery and it delayed his recovery, Rosaura said.

In March, she discovered a benign tumor in her neck. By June the tumor had become cancerous, putting both parents in the hospital at the same time.

The stress of having both parents ill caused their 11-year-old daughter Leslie Rodriguez’s grades to start slipping in school as she assumed her mother’s responsibilities to look after her 10-year-old brother, Jose Miguel Rodriguez, while her parents were getting treatment.

“That was when my daughter felt all this stress and that’s when I had to go talk to the school counselor,” Rosaura said.

In June alone, Francisco was in the hospital a whole month as he recovered from his brain surgery and Rosaura was in and out for chemotherapy. She is currently awaiting an appointment to get her tumor removed.

“It was a rough year but here we are, trying to get better for them because they are so young,” she said of her two children.

Rosaura Lira speaks at her home Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in La Joya. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

The mother of two said there are times when her children ask her why things can’t go back to normal.

“I always tell them we will get through it and we will move forward,” Rosaura said.

She said there are times when she feels sick from her treatment and puts on a brave face to show her kids that she is strong.

“They can’t see us both down,” Rosaura said.

While her husband tries to go to his dialysis appointments while the kids are in school, she said it is hard for him to find strength once he gets back home.

She said he is barely making a complete recovery from his surgery in June.

“His hardest days are his dialysis days, he spends them in bed and he gets dizzy easily,” Rosaura said.

Although difficult for her, Rosaura said she has always been honest with her children about her and her husband’s conditions, to prepare them if anything happens.

“It’s hard because it’s both of us,” she said. “If I was OK, I could be strong for them, but unfortunately, it’s both of us. And we both fear that something will happen to both of us. … But I have faith that I will be OK, but I worry about my husband. He’s been through so much and I worry that it’ll be harder for them.”

Rosaura Lira fixes her daughter Leslie Rodriguez, 11, at their home Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in La Joya. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

While Rosaura said she received plenty of support from her eldest son and family, she said she often had to leave the kids alone at home when she and her husband were receiving treatment.

Her daughter helps the parents by cleaning and cooking for them and her younger brother to help run the home.

“It’s kind of hard taking care of my little brother and taking care of my parents and the house, so it’s been pretty hard,” Leslie said.

Rosaura said what motivates her and her husband to get better is knowing how much her children miss them when they are away.

“What I want more than anything is for my kids to be OK,” Rosaura said. “I would like to be done with these illnesses and just have peace for my kids.”

Her daughter said her Christmas wish is for everything to go back to normal.

“I want my mom to go back to normal. I want my dad to go back to normal. I don’t want them to be sick, I don’t want to see them sick,” she said.

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Monitor staff writer Erika De Los Reyes contributed to this report.

Donations for this family, and others, can be made through the United Way of South Texas. They can be reached at (956) 686-6331 between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and inquire about contributing to the Spirit of Christmas campaign. Due to COVID- 19, only monetary donations are being accepted for families in need.