Valerie Rosian, of Strongsville, Ohio, went into cardiac arrest and nearly died when giving birth to her daughter Grace via emergency C-section on Oct. 24, 2016. The mom of three would soon learn that they were just beginning their remarkable health journey.
“When Grace was born, doctors let us know that she has Down syndrome and she also had … a form of leukemia that is typical in children with Down syndrome,” Rosian tells PEOPLE of her daughter, who is now 16 months. “We were shocked. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a hard punch in the gut.”
She adds: “She was a little over four pounds, and getting chemotherapy at 2 days old. I did a lot of crying and a lot of praying.”
After receiving treatment, Grace was declared cancer-free two months after her birth. However, doctors warned Rosian that the leukemia could return. Still, the eager mother rejoiced over her daughter’s clean bill of health and was able to take the little girl home.
Valerie Rosian with daughter Grace
“She was only home for a little bit and she started to get sick again,” Rosian tells PEOPLE. “Since she’s been born, I’ve only had her home for about five or six months. She’s been in and out of the hospital.”
Rosian, who has started a fundraiser to cover Grace’s medical expenses, then learned in August that the infant had developed acute myeloid leukemia as a result of the initial cancer.
“I was so heartbroken. When they told me initially that there was a chance of it coming back, I didn’t really give it much thought,” she says. But after the second diagnosis, “when they told me, I thought ‘Oh my God, what’s going to happen?’ But we wanted to fight for her,” Rosian says, noting that Grace underwent at least five rounds of intense chemotherapy.
“She got really sick. She started to lose her hair and got sores. She’d have really bad vomiting and diarrhea. It felt like I was carrying a weight on my chest,” Rosian recalls through tears. “On her pictures for her first birthday, it hurts my heart to look at them. We tried so hard to make it special for her, she was so sick. She looked so sick.”
Things began to look up for the family earlier this year when Grace’s cancer went into remission.
“I was so relieved. I felt like somebody had knocked the wind out of me for the longest time. When I got the news that I could take her home, I was like, ‘I can breathe now,’ ” she says. “It felt good but strange because most of my time with her had been at the hospital. When I got to have her home, it felt good because now I can be the mom. I can be the mom 100 percent.”
Grace was released to go home on March 21 —World Down Syndrome Day — and Rosian says, “It feels good to be a regular mom.”
Rosian — who is chronicling Grace’s journey on Facebook — says that despite a few trips to the doctor, and having to wear hearing aids as a result of the Down Syndrome, Grace is the perfect little girl.
“She’s such a happy baby. Even when she was sick, she always had a smile. She’s always been a very peaceful, happy, talkative little girl. She’s a wonderful baby. She has a wonderful demeanor about her, a happy, playful little girl.”