MONAHANS, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- A Monahans boy battling cancer since 2020 used his Make-A-Wish Foundation wish to bring home a best friend. 

Eliseo Gilbreath, 13, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia during the pandemic after experiencing pain in his knee. His mom, Ashley Gilbreath, said doctors first told them it was “growing pains”.

“We were told growing pains and then juvenile arthritis; he kept getting worse and the hurting was off and on and they kept telling me to rotate between Motrin and Tylenol,” said Ashley. 

In the span of five months, Eliseo lost 15 pounds. That’s when Elisio was sent to Cooks Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, where the family finally received a diagnosis after an MRI showed that Eliseo had lesions “from head to toe”. 

“The bone marrow told us that he had cancer and they asked us if we wanted him to know. From the very beginning our deal was, no surprises, no secrets. He’s very involved with his care, his medicines, he knows almost everything,” Ashley said.

While undergoing treatment, Eliseo was introduced to the Make-A-Wish foundation; his first wish was a trip to Hawaii. But the ongoing coronavirus pandemic sidelined that plan; however, Ashley quickly came up with a new idea after seeing how much Eliseo benefitted from therapy dogs, Sable and Steve, while in the hospital undergoing tests and receiving treatment.

“They helped me when I was awake for the (lumbar puncture). Sable was right there next to me while they were doing it so I wasn’t even thinking about it,” Eliseo said.

Ashley asked the Make-A-Wish team if they could help find a dog for Eliseo because she knew that the therapy dogs had been by his side through the hardest of days, and she wanted him to have a taste of that same joy at home. 

Earlier this week, Eliseo was surprised with a Goldendoodle puppy, named Rory. And the teen said he has big plans for his new best friend, he wants Rory to become a therapy dog too.

“By the time she can become a therapy dog…I’ll be done with my treatment, and I can go visit the hospitals with Rory,” Eliseo said. 

Eliseo is currently undergoing his latest cycle of maintenance in Fort Worth, and he’s expected to be done with all his cancer treatments by June of 2024. Ashley said the diagnosis and subsequent medical intervention needed to save her son’s life “completely transformed” their lives. She became his full-time caregiver at great cost to the family’s income. 

“But through it all, Eliseo’s resilience and determination have inspired us. Each phase of his treatments brings its own set of challenges: monthly medical visits, lumbar punctures with intrathecal chemo, and rounds of steroids on day one of each phase require a grueling five-hour trip to Fort Worth. Yes, Eliseo remains unwavering in his determination to fight this battle,” Ashley said.

If you’d like to donate to help the family with medical expenses and other needs, you can do so here.