Our coverage of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month continues with the story of an Arizona boy who has defied the odds with the help of his doctors and nurses, his mom’s unrelenting love, his own will to survive, and a love of baseball!

Ask anyone who knows Julio Rodriguez-Siraitare and they will tell you this fifth-grader from Nogales is a Major-Leaguer in the making. Better yet…let Julio tell you himself!

Scripps’ Nick Ciletti:

So you like baseball?

Julio Rodriguez-Siraitare

: Yes.


: You’re going to go pro someday?


: Yes.

But for this 11-year-old, baseball has proven to be more than just a daydream; it’s also been a much-needed lifeline.

“It really has been the motivation during those darkest days,” explains his mom, Teresa. 

Sadly, there have been plenty of those dark days over the past two years – that’s when Rodriguez-Siraitare was diagnosed with a form of pediatric cancer known as neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nerve cells. Patients often develop tumors around the renal glands, abdomen, or spinal cord. 

Teresa says her son’s tumor compressed his spinal cord and started giving him numbness in his legs and back pain. 

After the life-altering diagnosis, Rodriguez-Siraitare was forced to trade in the baseball diamond for Diamond Children’s Cancer Center in Tucson. 

The next two years would be filled with surgeries, radiation treatments, and rounds of chemotherapy, all to give him a fighting chance. 

“Julio asked me, ‘Mom, do I have cancer?'” explains Teresa. “It was a question I wasn’t really ready to answer. I didn’t know whether to say yes or no. And it was when I told him that he had cancer that he hugged me and told me he didn’t want to die.”

Teresa says Rodriguez-Siraitare was given a 50% chance of surviving, but she pushed through those odds and never gave up. 

“I said, ‘we are going to beat this cancer.’ And from there, he started to get motivated again and I told him it was the same as baseball – he was beating his cancer in this case and he was really a superhero.”

Throughout his journey, baseball has always been the “old friend” by his side, with his mom even saying it was like a “type of medicine” he would take. 


: Do you feel like you can forget a little bit about what’s happening?


: Yes.


: What do you tell your friends about your cancer?


: They didn’t feel happy – and they said to me, who is going to pitch? We need you.

With his team on the field and his team of doctors and nurses off the field, Rodriguez-Siraitare was able to throw his most memorable no-hitter yet, striking out cancer for good. After two years, he is cancer-free, inspiring countless others along the way, including one teammate in particular who never left his side.

“He has taught me so much,” explains Teresa. “He taught me how to be strong and how to be positive and take things as they are and still move forward.”

According to the non-profit Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer, which was founded by a young girl battling neuroblastoma and her family, 400,000 kids are diagnosed with cancer each year around the globe, including roughly 17,000 right here in the United States. It also remains the number on cause of death by disease in the U.S., and yet, just 4% of research dollars goes to pediatric cancer.

But here is the good news – there are more than half a million pediatric cancer survivors living in the U.S. today, thanks to amazing doctors, nurses, medical staff, research, and caretakers!

Rodriguez-Siraitare will need to go for check-ups every three months, according to Teresa, just to make sure he stays cancer-free.

For more information on Diamond Children’s Medical Center, click here.

For more information on Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer, click here.