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Four-year-old Itzel Chavez overcomes cancers

Despite her best efforts, Corina Chavez often has to force Itzel to wear her prosthetic arm and cooperating with doctors. At 4 years old, Itzel is often difficult when it comes to wearing her arm, but still persists in gaining her independence. In March, Itzel fought to watch TV instead of visiting with Laura Ryder of Ryder Orthopaedics. Allie Garza/Staff

Itzel Chavez visits Ryder Orthopaedics on Tuesday, March 8, 2011. Allie Garza/Staff

Photo by ALLIE GARZA

Despite her best efforts, Corina Chavez often has to force Itzel to wear her prosthetic arm and cooperating with doctors. At 4 years old, Itzel is often difficult when it comes to wearing her arm, but still persists in gaining her independence. In March, Itzel fought to watch TV instead of visiting with Laura Ryder of Ryder Orthopaedics. Allie Garza/Staff Itzel Chavez visits Ryder Orthopaedics on Tuesday, March 8, 2011. Allie Garza/Staff

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  • Throughout her recovery, Itzel visits Ryder Orthopaedics in Naples for prosthetic arm fittings. During her first visit on Feb. 22, Itzel was dressed up for her 'new arm.' After the fitting, prosthetist Laura Ryder gave Itzel a small stuffed bear, which she took outside while standing with Miracle Limbs founder Robert Ayers. Allie Garza/Staff
  • Gathered around the table in prayer, Itzel watches as her mother, Corina Chavez, and father, Pablo Chavez, pray before dinner on March 7. As Jehovah's Witnesses, the family keeps religion at the center of their lives. Corina Chavez believes faith in God has helped her family get through Itzel's fight against cancer.  Allie Garza/Staff
  • Christina Rosolia, left, and Illeana Romano, right, from Make a Wish Foundation visit Itzel and her family in early March to see what Itzel's greatest wish consists of. For Itzel, she wanted a park - nothing more. Despite being offered a trip to Disney World or Australia, Itzel insisted on having a park in her back yard. Allie Garza/Staff
  • Before visiting Ryder Orthopaedics in March, Corina Chavez puts Itzel's prosthetic arm on while Itzel's sister, Citlali, waits. Itzel's siblings often had to accompany Itzel on trips to the doctor and rehabilitation sessions. Allie Garza/Staff
  • Despite her best efforts, Corina Chavez often has to force Itzel to wear her prosthetic arm and cooperating with doctors. At 4 years old, Itzel is often difficult when it comes to wearing her arm, but still persists in gaining her independence. In March, Itzel fought to watch TV instead of visiting with Laura Ryder of Ryder Orthopaedics. Allie Garza/Staff

Itzel Chavez visits Ryder Orthopaedics on Tuesday, March 8, 2011. Allie Garza/Staff
  • During her first trip out to the pool since her surgery in November, Itzel holds tight to small water spray at Golden Gate Community Park and Aquatic Center in late March. Itzel's mother was worried children would stare at her daughter, but Itzel never took notice. Instead, she splashed in the children's pool and was careful to not get in over her head, as she was still anxious about her balance. Allie Garza/Staff
  • After a night of playing in April, Itzel discards her prosthetic arm to continue running around. The arm was a source of frustration for Itzel, who started gaining independence before starting rehabilitation with a prosthetic arm. The Chavez family recently decided to take a break from the prosthetic arm and come back to it when Itzel turns 5. Allie Garza/Staff
  • During an early morning in April, Itzel struggles against her mother as Corina Chavez attempts to put on Itzel's prosthetic arm before running errands. Allie Garza/Staff
  • Itzel rides in the car with her older siblings, Citlali, 10, and Jakob, 5, on a recent trip to drop the older siblings off at Parkside Elementary School. While Itzel's siblings struggled with the attention their younger sister was receiving, they've taken it upon themselves to help her out and teach her how to do things with one arm. Allie Garza/Staff
  • During a visit to NCH Greentree Outpatient Rehab on April 6, Itzel works with pediatric rehabilitation specialist Ashley Johnson to build up strength in her right shoulder. During rehab, Itzel plays with Silly Putty, works to lift blocks and does the hokey pokey with a Tickle Me Elmo doll. Allie Garza/Staff
  • Itzel plays in a ball pit during a rehabilitation visit at NCH Greentree Outpatient Rehab on April 6. Pediatric rehabilitation specialist Ashely Johnson engages Itzel and encourages her to use her upper body during fun activities such as the ball pit. Allie Garza/Staff

After she was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer in 2007, the family of Itzel Chavez, now 4, faced an impossible choice: Subject the child to another round of chemotherapy, straining her young body and pushing it to its limits, or a full arm amputation.

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