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Tucson girl diagnosed with rare brain tumor

Posted at 10:29 PM, May 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-20 17:53:01-04

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- A 4-year-old Tucson girl diagnosed with a rare form of pediatric cancer is getting support from all over Southern Arizona.

Gianna Hurtado's parents hope to share her story and raise awareness about the condition. 

"We had never heard of it," said Lizette Hurtado, Gianna's mother. "If I had ignored her symptoms, or if she would have come to me and I would have told her you'll be fine, or we'll go to the doctor in a few weeks. This is really aggressive."

On May 5th Gianna was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). Lizette noticed her daughter kept closing one eye when she was watching T.V. Gianna was seeing double.

The Hurtado's took Gianna to see the doctor, eventually winding up in the emergency room, and Gianna was diagnosed that same day. 

DIPG is a rare brain tumor on the part of the brainstem that controls critical functions like breathing and heartbeat. Between 200 and 400 children are diagnosed each year.

While there is no cure, Lizette says they are researching clinical trials all across the world. There are promising ones in New York, and the U.K. Until then, Gianna will go to radiation five days a week for six weeks at Banner University Medical Center.

Luckily, Gianna isn't in any pain, but one of the side effects is double vision.

"She's had a lot of stress," Lizette said. "It's definitely a huge change for her compared to what she's used to on a daily basis. Before she had no issues, visiting her doctor."

It's been an emotional rollercoaster, Lizette said, and while it's been difficult they will continue to fight for Gianna.

Gianna's dad, Joseph Hurtado, is a trooper with the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Quentin Mehr with DPS says Hurtado is a commercial vehicle inspector who has been with the department for 11 years. Mehr contacted media outlets to spread the word about Gianna. He says everyone at DPS is like family, and they are doing everything they can for the family.

Lizette says that since Gianna's diagnosis they have had an overwhelming amount of support from the community. Both she and her husband are from Douglas, and have family and friends in Tucson and the Phoenix area.

Thanks to the Arizona Diamondbacks and DPS, the Hurtado's watched a game over the weekend and Gianna was featured on the Jumbotron. Gianna loves Star Wars, and got a visit from them in the hospital.

A GoFund Me page was set up to help with medical costs. So far more than $48,000 has been donated.

Multiple fundraisers have also been scheduled for Gianna. Gianna also has a Facebook page where you can keep track of her journey.