Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sibling bond helps Pasco girl battle leukemia

PORT RICHEY — William Marin, 17, is a rare find in the big brother department. He doesn't mind when his little sister beats him at video games.

He and his sister, 14-year-old Alize Marin, like to play video games as well as practical jokes on each other. "They gang up on me," their mother, Mari Picart, playfully protested.

Then last year, Alize was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Her family rallied around her, and Alize discovered William was more than a great brother.

He was a perfect match.

"Without my brother," she said with a smile toward William, "I wouldn't be here."

• • •

The family moved to Pasco County last spring from Pennsylvania. T-Mobile was closing its call center in Lehigh Valley. If Mari Picart wanted to keep her job with the company, she would have to relocate to a Pasco call center.

A month after the move, Alize was diagnosed with leukemia. The doctors said her type of cancer was among the toughest to beat.

"When I heard the word 'cancer,' " Picart said in a hushed voice, "I thought, 'My baby's going to die'."

Alize, then an eighth-grader with dreams of becoming a veterinarian, described her reaction in a single word: "Heartbroken."

The doctors told Alize she would stay in the hospital for about four months, receiving regular chemotherapy treatments in preparation for a bone marrow transplant. And the search began for a family member who could provide the bone marrow that Alize needed to survive.

There's a 25 percent chance that someone will be a perfect donor match for their sibling. But the odds broke in Alize's favor.

William "was not only a match, he was a 100 percent match," Picart said. "For the first time since my daughter's diagnosis, I had hope."

And she wasn't the only one.

"I was happy that I was going to be the one to help her," said William. "She would now have a better chance of being cured."

Although an outpatient procedure, the bone marrow transplant was not a simple proposition. William had to change his diet in preparation for the June 30 transplant at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. He suffered from pain and nausea after the procedure. And because the doctors recommended he stay in a sterile environment while he recovered from the operation, he delayed the start of his senior year at Fivay High School from August to September.

"I looked at what my sister was going through and knew that I could do it, too," he said. "I just closed my eyes and hoped."

• • •

William and Alize have a sibling bond forged through difficult times. Their parents divorced. Their mother is a survivor of bladder cancer. Their father was murdered in 2009 in a drive-by shooting in Pennsylvania.

They've learned to support each other.

Mari Picart married her current husband, Jose, in 2000. The couple have two children together: Julian Picart, 12, and Joshua Picart, 9.

After Alize's diagnosis, Mari Picart went on unpaid leave to care for her daughter. Alize enrolled in Florida Virtual School. With Jose finding temporary trucking jobs and looking for full-time work, money was tight. That's when a group of their new Pasco neighbors came to the rescue.

One of Mari's Picart's T-Mobile co-workers was relocating to another area and allowed the family to assume the lease on her spacious Port Richey home. The Pasco-based nonprofit Operation Unwrap a Smile, headed by Herb and Stephanie Roshell, gave the family a late Christmas earlier this month, delivering a Wii video game unit and video games, a Darth Vader clock and Hello Kitty items for Alize, plus presents for the other kids.

Alize came home from the hospital just before Thanksgiving and has been improving since her transplant.

Although her condition is stabilized, Alize still deals with nausea, exhaustion and other side effects. She takes a full battery of medications each day and will go through monthly outpatient procedures for the next six months.

"They have to go through her back and check her bone marrow once a month, to make sure that her immune system stays up and to prevent a relapse," said Mari Picart. The first procedure is scheduled for Jan. 23, the week of Alize's 15th birthday.

Both mother and daughter have faith that Alize will thrive. The two even plan to write a book about their experiences, and Alize now dreams of becoming a counselor for other cancer patients.

"I want to inspire other people who are going through what I am," she said. "If I can do it, they can."

If you want to help

The family has established a fundraising page at to raise money for Alize Marin's medical care and living expenses.

Sibling bond helps Pasco girl battle leukemia 01/10/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 11, 2013 8:22am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Plan your weekend Aug. 18-20: Elvis in concert, Jason Aldean, Monster Jam Triple Threat, Sing-Along Grease


    Plan your weekend

    The king

    Elvis: Live in Concert: This year marks the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, and Ruth Eckerd Hall will have a Graceland-produced Elvis concert on a movie screen, accompanied by a full live orchestra. Graceland calls it the closest audiences …

    Handout photos of Elvis: Live in Concert, a tour spectacle featuring a live orchestra backing the voice of Elvis Presley, projected onto a movie screen. The tour comes to Ruth Eckerd Hall on 8/18/17. Credit: Graceland.
  2. Woman convicted in murder of 18-year-old with cerebral palsy gets lighter term


    TAMPA — Linda Bonck, a 90-pound Chamberlain High School senior with cerebral palsy, lived near Tampa's Lowry Park. She struggled to walk and talk but was known for being friendly and trusting of strangers until she vanished one day in 1992.

    Georgia Miller, 39, was convicted for the 1992 murder of Linda Bonck, an 18-year-old Chamberlain High School student who had cerebral palsy. Originally sentenced to life in prison, Miller was resentenced Wednesday to 65 years, the result of U.S. and Florida Supreme Court decisions that found it unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life. With gain time, Miller will be released from prison in the next six years. [Florida Department of Corrections]
  3. Boynton Beach woman arrested on DUI, child abuse charges


    A Boynton Beach woman was arrested Saturday and faces DUI and child abuse charges after she blew a .200 on a breath test with an unbuckled child in the backseat, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

    Brandy Lerma, 31 of Boynton Beach, was arrested on DUI and child abuse charges on Saturday. [Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Editorial: Why can't Hillsborough commissioners move Confederate monument?


    The violence in Charlottesville, Va., crystallized for much of the nation the danger of refusing to address painful symbols of the past. But not so in Hillsborough County, where the County Commission on Wednesday reversed itself yet again and left open the possibility of leaving a Confederate monument outside the …

  5. Former WTSP employee sues station's parent companies for gender discrimination


    A former director at WTSP-Ch. 10 has sued the station's parent companies, claiming she was the victim of gender discrimination.