13-year-old battles brain tumors, receives wish at Texas A&M University

KBTX News 3 at Ten EXTENDED(Recurring)
Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 7:07 PM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) -It’s a very special family weekend for one family visiting the Brazos Valley.

Gabby Zarate is a 13-year-old girl who was recently diagnosed with a rare form of brain tumors. On Friday, all members of her family including her mom, dad and two sisters gathered at Texas A&M for a weekend hosted by Make-A-Wish Texas Gulf Coast and Louisiana.

Studies show an estimated 400,000 children around the world develop cancer each year, only half of whom are ever diagnosed. It’s an unimaginable situation that the Zarate family is going through currently.

“The daddy-daughter relationship we have is unbreakable. We would feed the animals, walk them, train them, listen to country music with the window down,” said Michael Zarate, Gabby’s father. “That’s how we were all the time, spending that time together. So, seeing her like this, it’s very heartbreaking.”

Michael said the family started noticing changes in Gabby through her behavior.

“We sought out professional help and ultimately we ended up having an MRI done on March the 10th, where we were provided with the information that she has Bilateral Thalamic Glioma,” said Zarate.

It’s a life-changing disease that has spread rapidly.

“She has lost a lot of emotion. She has lost the ability to speak,” said Zarate. “It’s really just hard news to take especially for someone who is a very bright and heartwarming person.”

As times get tougher by the day, Michael explained that it’s important to emphasize the areas that mean the most in life. That’s how the family landed at Texas A&M University this weekend.

“It’s all about focusing on the good things. Gabby loves Aggie football and animals,” said Zarate. “Today, we’re here at the veterinary medicine facility at Texas A&M. And, from what she told me before, it’s one of the best places to go in the country.”

On Friday, Gabby and the Zarate family toured the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M. Faculty gave the family hands-on experience as to what it would be like to work or study there. Along with special visits from Reveille X and XI.

“Well, we have ultrasound examinations for her to look at,” said Dr. John August, Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Tours of the hospital, some interactions with some horses, dogs. She’s going to have a chance to do all the things like a first-year veterinary student and more.”

August told KBTX it’s all about making sure Gabby feels at home and a part of the community that is Aggieland.

“That’s part of A&M’s core values. Taking care of others. For us, it’s a very special day and we hope Gabby leaves with wonderful memories of animals and people,” said August.

On Saturday, Gabby will focus on her other love: football.

Gabby and the rest of the Zarate family will attend the Maroon and White Aggie Football game on Saturday afternoon. Their special weekend of fun and celebrating Gabby lasts until Monday.

For more information on Make-A-Wish, visit here.