INDEPENDENCE — Damian Martinez celebrated his last day of chemo with flair. When the 5-year-old from Independence got home from Portland Monday, the streets were lined with friends and family. Their cars were decorated with balloons and messages about his journey from being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at age 2. They held hand-made signs: “Chemo free is how we be,” “Damian won,” and “I miss you Damian, best friends.”
Many wore matching black T-shirts that read “In this family ... no one fights alone.”
And Damien held his own sign that said, “Thank you first responders” for the officers and firefighters who staged a parade for him in his neighborhood.
Polk County Sheriff Mark Garton arrived at Damian’s house a little bit before the parade started so he could test out the drone they were going to use to record the event.
PCSO deputies joined Monmouth and Independence police officers and firefighters from Polk County Fire District No. 1.
Damian’s mother Maribel Torreblanca said she was thankful how the community came together to make the moment special.
It’s tradition at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital for a child to ring a special bell when he or she finishes chemo.
Damian got to do that, but because of hospital visitor restrictions due to COVID-19, only one parent was allowed, so Damian’s father Jhonathan Martinez wasn’t able to be present for it.
Polk Fire had a solution for that — they offered Damian the bell that sits in front of the main fire station.
After the parade, everyone headed over to the fire station where more officers and firefighters helped celebrate the occasion.
Torreblanca and Martinez are thankful for all the support they have received since Damian was diagnosed.
“The primary doctor explained the symptoms and asked for bloodwork,” Torreblanca said. “He said, ‘I just want to let you know this could be more serious, possibly cancer.’ We ended up, an hour later that day, rushed to Salem Hospital.”
Then he was sent to Doernbecher, she said.
It’s been challenging, Torreblanca said, but the support from her parents, parents-in-law and his (Damian’s) “chemo pal” Courtney have helped.
At Doernbecher, Chemo pals visit with children or teens who are undergoing chemotherapy or other treatment for serious illness.
Torreblanca and Martinez’s employers were very understanding of the flexibility they needed to care for their son, she said.
The management and crew at Burgerville, where Torreblanca works, even did a fundraiser for the young family.
“The community came through for us,” she said. “I appreciate my job so much. They’ve been so supportive.”
On the day of Damian’s last chemo treatment, his father said he felt “all the emotions you can think of — sad, happy, excited.”
Torreblanca said she is thankful to God for this opportunity that some other parents don’t have.