Paloma Marroquin was in the fifth grade when she heard the dreaded words: She had cancer.
The Gilbert girl was playing basketball with her youth team when she went to the doctor with a sore right arm. Her doctor thought she had pulled a muscle and sent her to physical therapy.
A month later it still hurt. Doctors then discovered cancer.
Chemotherapy didn't shrink the tumor, and her arm became big and swollen.
In November 2006, doctors had to amputate Paloma's arm and shoulder.
She had to learn how to live with only one arm and one hand and write with her left hand.
Paloma underwent more chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells until July 2007.
Her mom, Dina Marroquin, was able to take three months off after co-workers at Freescale Semiconductor donated their vacation time. Paloma's school also raised money to help with medical expenses, Shea Homes sent the family on a Disney cruise, and Room for Joy decorated her room in a Tinkerbell fairyland.
A fundraiser to assist the family is scheduled for Saturday at Harkins SanTan Village theaters in Gilbert.
"We're just grateful that people have big hearts and they care," Dina Marroquin said.
Paloma's cancer was in remission, and she spent her sixth grade with her friends at Patterson Elementary School.
However, during her regular checkups in August, doctors discovered a golf ball-sized tumor in her lung.
Doctors removed the tumor in September and said there was nothing more they could do for her.
Paloma was sent to a specialist in Houston. Doctors there found an even larger tumor in her lung.
She went through another 14 days of chemotherapy. It's the second time she's lost her hair, and this time was the hardest, Paloma said.
"She's a good spirit," said Dina Marroquin. "She's accepted it. She goes out with her friends. She's not upset."
Now, she's back in Texas for the third trip since September to see if the chemo worked and shrunk the tumor. She will have to undergo another surgery in the next couple of months to remove the tumor.
Paloma said her family and friends' support has helped her through her ordeal. She has also kept an online journal at www.caringbridge.org/visit/palomamarroquin.
Paloma is now 12 and a seventh-grader at Greenfield Junior High School. She's maintained an A average and attends school as often as she can between doctor visits, said Janine Foy, Paloma's language arts teacher.
Since October, Paloma has been home schooled from the Gilbert district because she's been in chemotherapy.
Foy said when Paloma is in school, she's hard working, keeps a positive attitude and never wants special treatment.
"She's very brave, strong, responsible and never complains," Foy said. "She is just such a sweet girl."