"I thought OK, I have seen that in books, but when I saw Tanya came in -- wow -- she is big, she is really big," she said. "And she weighed a lot more at the time. But her personality came through so fast and her size dissipated and I fell in love with her right away."
"She is the kindest, sweetest, most loving girl," said Valle. "When people meet her they want to give her everything and want to do anything for her."
Tanya's tumor is tangled around her carotid artery, which makes surgery complicated. But if she makes it through, Tanya will undergo another one to reinforce her spine.
"She poses all sorts of big risks, literally and figuratively because of her size," said Dr. Dan Kelly, director of the brain tumor center at St. John's Health Center and John Wayne Cancer. "It makes everything more problematic."
Kelly and Dr. Amin Kassam, director of the Neuroscience Institute, hope to perform Tanya's surgery later this month.
The doctors are currently awaiting hormone test results as they want to have a "good rationale" for surgery before they put Tanya's life at risk once more.
"If we only get 30 percent of her tumor, it's not worth subjecting her to the risk," said Kelly. "If we get 70 to 80 percent, we can help get her growth hormone level to a reasonable range."
Tanya's mother said she is "hopeful" for success.
"Two years ago, they told me she was terminal and I asked, 'Where is her date stamp?'" said Strutynski. "She's a fighter and she knows mom is here and will fight with her."