St. Louis Bosnians Unite to Help 2-Year-Old Battling Rare Cancer

Categories: Community

Photos from Facebook
Dzevad Dizdarevic and his daughter, Ariana, who suffers from a very rare cancer.
As his two-year-old daughter Ariana in the hospital with a very rare cancer, three more kids at home, a pregnant wife and no insurance, Dzevad Dizdarevic sat outside the hospital with his head in his hands.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," he told his wife's sister, Sajra Dizdarevic. "I saved everything I could think of. How am I going to feed those kids?"

In Bosnia, where Dizdarevic's family is originally from, neighbors drop everything to help a family with such need, making meals, babysitting siblings -- anything that could help.

But in America, walking into a stranger's home and offering to make dinner would be a little weird, so St. Louis' Bosnian community is continuing their tradition of support in times of crisis with a distinctly American twist.

The Dizdarevics are fundraising for Ariana's healthcare costs, holding one event at south city's Lucky Duck bar Saturday, planning another at Grbic Bosnian restaurant next month, placing donation boxes around town and even launching a crowdfunding website on GoFundMe.

"In Bosnia, people don't have money lying around to give financial assistance," says Erna Grbic, whose family was one of the first to settle in St. Louis from Bosnia and now runs Grbic Restaurant. "In America, we all have jobs and fancy websites like GoFundMe to assist these families."

Ariana's family at the hospital before chemo made her lose her hair
After only two days of sharing the crowdfunding site online, Ariana's family raised $25,000 in donations from St. Louis Bosnians, as well as Bosnians and non-Bosnians across the country.

"It's just amazing to see how many people have reached out; we're shocked," says Ariana's aunt, Sajra Dizdarevic. "Americans are donating, too. Nobody is treating her any differently. Everybody has come together."

Ariana and her favorite cartoon, Dora the Explorer.
Ariana is still in the hospital receiving chemotherapy for clear-cell sarcoma of the kidney, a very rare cancer that affects fewer than 500 children each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

"When they said 'tumor,' oh my God, my whole world crashed," says Sajra. "We were just in total shock. They did the emergency surgery right away."

Ariana will need six months of chemotherapy and has already been re-hospitalized for fevers and blood transfusions. Another family member, Irma Dizdarevic, posted on Facebook that Ariana needed $8,000 in shots on top of the costs for treatment and surgery.

"I told [Ariana's father] we need to do something," says Sajra. "Somebody will help us. We have to get funding for this little girl."

The Dizdarevic family moved to St. Louis because of its large Bosnian population -- the largest per capita of anywhere outside of Bosnia. As the medical bills pile up, Sajra says, she's happy to be surrounded by such a supportive community.

"St. Louis just feels like home," Sajra says.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at

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Almas Farmhouseantiques
Almas Farmhouseantiques

Our friends son has Leukemia and it is taking care of everything. I think this is what America should be about No sick child should ever have to beg for care while we build huge medical facillities in places like China and Fiji

Sharon Johnson
Sharon Johnson

Norma, I had the same thought, surely someone will tell them about St. Jude.

Leslee Brown
Leslee Brown

I agree St. Judes would be the best place for this child as they are the pioneers in child cancer treatment and not making an indigent family pay


God bless this family.  I pray that she will make a full recovery.

Almas Farmhouseantiques
Almas Farmhouseantiques

They can apply for the new obama care expansion for children at the state social welfare DFS office IT will cover everything Thank you President Obama

Becky Price
Becky Price

People should help others, regardless of ethnicity. Glad this little girl and her family are getting the help they need.

Norma Cole Sosko
Norma Cole Sosko

They can also reach out to st jude as no family pays for treatment and will house the family.

Lynette Betts
Lynette Betts

Childhood cancer/debilitating disease might be my greatest fear. Praying for a complete recovery for this child, as well as emotional and financial support for the family.

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