PITTSBURG -- Travel wishes aren't on the minds of most 9-year-old girls when the holidays arrive.

That's not the case with Juliana Ordaz, who would like to spend Christmas in Mexico after doctors placed her in hospice care in November as a result of her advanced cancer.

After receiving her medication, the little girl cried in her bedroom filled with stuffed animals and get-well cards in the Pittsburg apartment shared with her mother, Maira Ordaz; two brothers, 7-year-old Cuauhtemoc and 5-year-old Emanuel; and grandmother, Maria de la Luz Martinez.

"She wants to go to Mexico to be together with all the family," Ordaz, 34, said in Spanish through an interpreter as she fought back tears.

Maria Rubio, officer manager of the Antioch branch of the Salvation Army that serves East Contra Costa County, delivered Christmas toys and food to the family last year.

Rubio said the Salvation Army first helped the family last year during the holidays. "We're going to help them again this year."

Juliana was diagnosed about three years ago. Her cancer originated in her knee, then spread to her lungs, brain and shoulder. In November, Juliana entered hospice care in her home, where doctors are providing comfort care after it was determined there was nothing more that can be done to treat the cancer.

The Ordaz family is among the 500 families throughout East Contra Costa County that have signed up for this year's Salvation Army holiday food and gifts program, Rubio said. Deliveries are set to begin the week of Dec. 16.


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"We don't have the funding to do as much as we want to do (even though the) need is out there," said Rubio, who added that last year 700 families were helped.

The program is funded through grants, community donations and contributions from the Toys for Tots program. "We work together so families are well taken care of," she said.

Last year, Juliana's brother Cuauhtemoc received a toy drum as a holiday gift. He is hoping for a bigger drum this year.

"We are going to try and make Christmas as normal as we can," Martinez, Juliana's grandmother, said in Spanish through an interpreter.

Shortly before being placed in hospice care in November, Juliana and her family visited the Hawaiian island of Oahu through the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Greater Bay Area.

"The first day we went to Sea Life Park," Cuauhtemoc said as he showed a photo taken of the family at a luau.

Juliana first visited the Mexican state of Michoacan, which is where many of her relatives live, while on vacation with her grandmother before being diagnosed with cancer.

Ordaz, who quit her job at a fast-food restaurant to become Juliana's full-time caregiver, said her daughter's nature is to be "happy and energetic" and to pray for others, even though the cancer has weakened her.

Maira Ordaz of Pittsburg, Calif., left, starts to unpack groceries for Thanksgiving dinner, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 in Pittsburg. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff)
Maira Ordaz of Pittsburg, Calif., left, starts to unpack groceries for Thanksgiving dinner, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 in Pittsburg. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff) (D. ROSS CAMERON)

"Juliana cannot do a lot of the stuff she did before," said Ordaz, who showed a book of drawings made by her daughter that tracked her ups and down during the course of the disease. "Every single picture has a meaning to her," she said. One picture shows a beautifully drawn, brightly colored bird.

"When she started to feel better, she started to draw a little bird," said Ordaz, who plans to hold a fundraiser to help raise money so Juliana can go to Mexico.

"She wants to go to die in Mexico," Martinez said. "I just know that she loves Mexico and that's what she wants."

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.

SHARE THE SPIRIT
The Share the Spirit campaign, sponsored by this newspaper, benefits nonprofit agencies in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Readers who wish to help can clip the coupon accompanying this story and send it to the address printed on it. The Volunteer Center of Contra Costa administers the fund. Readers with questions and corporations interested in making large contributions may contact the Volunteer Center of Contra Costa at 925-472-5760
To make a donation to the Salvation Army, call 925-778-0808, ext. 11, or go to www.usw.salvationarmy.org.