CultureMap Austin (originally posted 1/27/14) -- Today was supposed to be the start of Loriana Hernandez's new life.
After announcing her departure from Austin's Fox 7 on January 3, Hernandez and her son Gabriel were set to move this week to Virginia to join her husband, Cesar Aldama, the senior director of news for Comcast SportsNet, based in Bethesda, Maryland. After three years spent apart, commuting to be together whenever possible, the couple decided it was time to focus on their toddler son and — if they were lucky — growing their young family. "We were so relieved to be under the same roof again," Hernandez tells CultureMap. But during a routine blood test last week, Hernandez got the news that would send her on another journey entirely. Hernandez has acute leukemia.
Hernandez, who in addition to helming the news desk at Fox 7, most recently as the morning co-anchor on Good Day Austin, is known for being an intrepid health reporter. An advocate of healthful living and clean eating, she found it only natural to take a reporter's attitude when she and her husband began battling infertility, telling their story with brutal honesty.
"'Fertility' seems like such a taboo word these days, and it saddens me so many women keep it a secret," Hernandez wrote on her blog, CleanEatingCleanLiving.com. "Fertility issues are very common for couples trying to have a baby." And so when she was preparing to leave Central Texas, Hernandez checked in with Dr. Shahryar Kavoussi of Westlake IVF, the doctor who helped Hernandez become pregnant with her first child. The couple decided to have their remaining frozen embryos implanted and scheduled the procedure for Wednesday, January 22.
The Friday before the implantation was set to take place, the family was packing the final items in their Austin-area house. "I just started throwing up," says Hernandez. As the movers roamed about, carrying boxes and packing the truck, Hernandez was suffering from what she thought was a stomach virus. Concerned that she was too sick for the procedure, Kavoussi ordered a blood test. When he called with the results, Hernandez knew instantly something was wrong. "His voice just dropped," she says. "He started crying, and he said, 'I'm used to making miracles happen.'" Another blood test, a bone marrow biopsy and a second opinion would confirm what Kavoussi suspected: Hernandez has leukemia.
When we spoke with Hernandez, she was sitting in Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, on her way to "start six weeks of hell" at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. At 4 am this morning, Hernandez received a phone call from a leukemia specialist at the renowned cancer treatment hospital telling her to get on a plane immediately. "He told me to prepare for the biggest fight of [my] life."
And fight she will. Instead of moving into their new home in Virginia, the family will be separated once again, with Gabriel heading to Atlanta to stay with family and Aldama commuting daily from Northern Virginia to Bethesda to Baltimore and back again to be with his wife. Without a support system, Hernandez is understandably scared. "I wanted a baby, and I got cancer," she says, her voice breaking. "As a health reporter, I've interviewed [cancer] survivors, but I've also interviewed the family members of those who didn't make it."
In the less than 72 hours since her diagnosis, Hernandez's friends, family and colleagues (including, we should note, CultureMap CEO Alyce Alston) have rallied around the family, starting a fund to help pay for medical bills and coordinating visits to be by her hospital bedside. In less than a day, almost 40 people have contributed more than $3,500 in donations for the family. Hernandez, meanwhile, is planning to document her journey so that others can learn and find comfort from her it. "I'm just going to act like a reporter and treat this like it's my biggest story."
If you would like to donate to Hernandez and her family, please visit her Fundly website.