Dario Chavez was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma at 19 years old. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancerous tumor that develops in the body’s soft tissues, typically the muscles. The tumor often grows in the head, neck, arms or legs, but Dario’s tumor was in his abdomen. He knew he would need aggressive treatment to get rid of the cancer; that wasn’t a choice.
But he did have a choice when it came to where to receive treatment — he was told he could go to Children’s Minnesota or a nearby adult hospital. He chose Children’s Minnesota, knowing that they would do everything possible to control his pain and educate him about the disease in the way a young adolescent could best understand.
Today, Dario explains, “If I’d been treated anywhere else, I wouldn’t be here today. I believe that.”
His treatment plan was aggressive, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. For one year, Children’s Minnesota was Dario’s second home as he rotated between his house and the hospital every few weeks for treatments. The chemotherapy had difficult side effects, like nausea and vomiting, but Dario recalls that his care team did everything possible to make him comfortable. After a year of chemotherapy, Dario was cancer-free. Due to the cancer and chemotherapy, Dario had lost a lot of weight and muscle, so he committed to getting back in shape after treatment, including regular workouts and eating healthy.
Then two years later, just as he was getting ready to restart college, he got a call from his oncologist and immediately knew something was wrong. His cancer had returned. But his doctor said they could keep fighting and work on it together. Dario returned to Children’s Minnesota for another round of chemotherapy, as well as intraoperative radiation treatment at the Mayo Clinic, which was successful.
During his second round of treatment, Dario had the support of his girlfriend, Juana. Shortly after he went into remission a second time, he and Juana got married.
When Dario and Juana started to talk about having a family, they were unsure if they would be able to conceive a child naturally due to the aggressive nature of Dario’s chemotherapy treatments. This was something he didn’t think much about as a young adult during his first treatment but now was something he wanted.
After years of trying to have a child, they could hardly believe it when Juana was pregnant.
“When I saw the heartbeat, I knew it was real,” Dario recalled. In summer 2015, Dario and Juana welcomed son Liam at The Mother Baby Center. Today, Liam is a healthy and happy baby, surrounded with lots of love. Dario has been in remission for more than seven years, and he still goes to Children’s Minnesota for yearly checkups and scans. After his birth, Dario and Juana brought Liam to a visit with his care team so they could meet him.
Today, Dario’s first priority is being a loving husband and father to his family. He is currently a sales representative for EDCO Products, Inc. in Hopkins, where he has worked since he was 18 years old. He also works at Orangetheory Fitness in Eden Prairie and still loves to maintain a healthy lifestyle through working out.
During Dario’s treatment, his care team gave him a plaque that reads, “Believe in miracles.” Today, looking at Dario and his beautiful wife and child, he embodies that spirit of never giving up hope.