A foster couple who took in four siblings is now caring for the eldest brother as he goes through treatment for cancer.
Mark and Valerie Sanchez’s path to fostering 19-year-old Joshua and his two brothers and sister was an unexpected one. The couple already knew the children when it became clear they needed a new home.
“We were trying to think what was best for them and what’s best for them is to keep the kids together, so we ended up filing the right paperwork to foster,” Mark, a graphic designer from Garden Grove, California, tells PEOPLE. “We decided together that this could be an opportunity for us to give them a better life.”
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Though they hadn’t planned for it, Mark, 42, and Valerie committed themselves to providing for the children, even though they were stretched thin financially. The couple also has five children between them, including one who is severely disabled and requires round-the-clock care.
But with the children finally finding a strong familial foundation, things were looking up. That is, until Joshua — who would take care of his siblings growing up by buying them food when he could — told Mark and Valerie that he felt unwell.
“He said he had aches, he was going to the bathroom a lot, and just couldn’t sleep. We’re like, ‘Come on, Josh. Get to bed. Maybe you’re okay,’ ” Mark says of the conversation with Joshua in October. “The following week Josh turned yellow.”
The 19-year-old was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which doctors found had spread to his kidney, liver and lungs.
“It was horrible. It’s one thing to deal with the behavioral issues the kids face, and the financial aspect of helping to support them. But now, Joshua has to deal with this potentially life-threatening disease,” Mark says. “He’s a smart kid and he’s very spiritual. It comes naturally to him because he’s seen so much in his life, and I think when you see a bunch of ugly, you develop a positive spirit.”
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Testicular cancer is most common in men 15 to 34 years of age, but, fortunately, most cases can be cured, according to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institute of Health. There will be an estimated 9,310 men diagnosed with testicular cancer this year, and approximately 400 those diagnosed will succumb to the disease, the National Institute of Health said.
Joshua has since gone through chemotherapy, radiation and stem cell treatment at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, and doctors told the family that 70 percent of his cancer is gone.
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“I try and do my best as his foster to be a good male role model figure for him, and so does Valerie. She tries to do the best she can. We try to give all the kids a good life, but it is what it is,” Mark says. “We make the best out of it, and if I could tell anybody this, it was rough in the beginning, a little bit rusty, but now we all banded together for Josh.”
The family is hoping to raise donations on their GoFundMe page to take care of things for Joshua and his siblings.
“I hope what I’m doing at least leaves an impact on their lives,” Mark says. “I can make things better for them and potentially give them a better future. Although I know they’ve been damaged, I’m hoping that what me and Valerie do at least gives them a shot at somewhat of a normal life or a future.”