anthony "lilo" Mongiello
Little Anthony was born December 27, 2008, a very healthy bouncy baby boy…my junior. A miracle of all miracles. My faith had come to fruition. I finally had a son! The first couple years were beautiful and very fulfilling as you might expect. But, just after Anthony turned two he started to have unexplained fevers that would spike as high as 103. My wife and I took Anthony from pediatrician to pediatrician trying to find out what was wrong with our little boy.
Unfortunately, no one could give us any answer. But we had faith in God and continued to march forward to look for an understanding. Then, a pediatrician recommended we go to the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital inWestchester to have him diagnosed. Maybe they could find out what’s wrong.
First, the doctors at Maria Fareri’s thought it was his appendix. I met with a surgeon there who was absolutely incredible, who was the one who took out my son’s appendix. I said to Doctor McBride, “Please treat him like he’s your own” and he said “I treat them all like they’re my own”. From that moment on, a relationship was formed. I knew God had sent us in the right direction.
Unfortunately his fevers returned, even after the surgery. Our faith was strong though and we went back to the hospital to try and find out what was causing these fevers. Through the process of elimination, my wife’s and my worst fears were being realized because the last test was a bone marrow test. Our worst nightmares had come to pass. Dr. Ozkaynak told us he had some news, it wasn’t good news. Anthony had A.L.L. As parents, my wife and I could never experience anything more tragic then realizing our child had a life threatening disease.
My wife Monica and I realized that we had to be strong. Our faith in God was strong and we asked Him for guidance as we discussed options with the experts. We had to do our best to get Anthony the best care. The advice we received was to have our son treated in a hospital where we would be most comfortable. This is a life changing situation so we must feel comfortable and secure. We were told that the hospital in which we choose to have our child treated for such a condition is of the greatest importance.
It was one of the toughest decisions we had to make in our lives. We kept praying and asking God for guidance. After looking into various options we chose the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital in Westchester. Why? I explained it to Monica this way: there is a door, and we know we have to go through it. We fear that the other side is cold and dark. Nonetheless, we must go through this door and we must not be afraid because our faith in God will be with us. When we walked through the door, we realized it was not as cold and dark and there were so many hands reaching out to help us.
There was so much help and encouragement and love coming from people I had never met before. There was love for a child they had never seen before. They embraced little Anthony with open arms. Monica and I saw clearly we were in the right place.
When a parent has to make a decision to put their children’s life in someone else’s hands, it is a difficult decision to make. Maria Fareri Children's Hospital in Westchester was the best place to be and we absolutely knew we made the right decision.
Then we heard some good news. When Dr. Ozkaynak told me that my son Anthony had an 85 to 90 percent chance of being cured and that he would never have this horrible disease returned to him again - I must say I’m not a betting man but I would take those odds everyday.
Everyone on the staff in this very special wing known as ARTS was amazing. From the nurses on the floor, the doctors on call, to the people that would take Anthony’s food menu for the day. It was life changing ordeal that we never could have endured alone without the help and support of all these good people, our faith in God and the encouraging pat on the back from Dr. Sandoval who said, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be okay.”
And then there’s the infusion center. The people there are wonderful. In a way, I feel closer to them than with some people I’ve known my whole life. There couldn’t be anyone more genuine or caring than the entire staff: Ginny, Jessica, Ellie, Dr. Ozkaynak, Dr. Hochberg, Dr. Sandoval and Dr. Tugall; people with whom we trust our son’s life. Monica and I feel we could not have made a better choice and we thank God for guiding us there.
For, Anthony, this is a way of life. It has not been easy to watch him and what he must endure. From taking his daily medication to the lumbar punctures in the operating room, it is incredible to watch his strength and endurance. Because of little Anthony’s strength, Monica has given him a very well deserved name. She calls him our “Lilo Hero” This is because as little as Anthony is, he is our Little Hero. Now, here we are a year-and-a-half later. We’ve gone through the heavy testing, the heavy medication. Anthony is in his maintenance program and all is good. We had a huge party to celebrate Anthony and his life on his third birthday. And now he has more hair than his father! It all grew back!
Right now the situation is wonderful, the prognosis is good. The odds we were given for my son’s survival, as you may recall, were 85 to 90 percent. I learned that just 10 to 15 years ago the odds were only 50%. I can’t imagine how devastating that number would have been for parents to hear back then. Now the survival rate is so much better because of the tireless research being done. It’s only through this research by dedicated doctors that these odds have been getting better through the years.
All I can say is how grateful we are for the blessing God has given us and the people on the other side of the door that have welcomed us with open arms. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to give to the Children’s Cancer Fund. For our son, Anthony “Lilo Hero”, this is just a way of life. For us it was life changing. So please give so we can increase the odds even more for the children of the future.
Rosie Bracciodieta, of Harrison, was a junior in high school when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma on May 28, 2010. Her first reaction was shock and she really did not know what to think.
Prior to her diagnosis, Rosie was a straight A student who loved to volunteer, help others, and was a member of her high school’s cheerleading squad. She started to notice a bump on her neck that kept getting bigger and her only other symptom was shortness of breathe in the early morning while she got ready for school.
Rosie and her parents thought it was about time they saw a doctor to see what was going on with the bump. That day her mom took her out of school for the appointment. It was the last day for about seven months before she returned to school.
Her pediatrician referred her to the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital. She went home and packed her bags for what would be three months in and out of the hospital. Her oncologist, Dr. Ozkaynak, ordered a biopsy of the mass in her neck and of her bone marrow to ensure that the cancer had not spread to the bones. Thankfully, it did not, but because of this disease, Rosie had her first surgery and experience under anesthesia.
She began chemotherapy in early June and continued until the end of August, with the "normal" side effects of chemotherapy such as hair loss, weakness, nausea, susceptibility to infections, and tiredness. After she finished chemo, she started radiation for another month. She began to feel better as the chemo’s side effects lessened. She started socializing with family and friends, and was very eager to grow her hair back. Her social worker, Rose Bartone, introduced her to the Make-A-Wish Foundation that granted her wish to meet and have dinner with Pauly D from the Jersey Shore!
There were so many other important people and organizations, such as the nurses in the hospital and in the infusion center that helped Rosie overcome this battle.
There are so many more positives than negatives that can come out of this type of life-changing experience, but even with many “bumps” in the road to recovery, the best way to handle them is to stay strong and positive through every aspect, for you and your family. You will grow stronger as a person and will gain knowledge that many others will not have. Rosie and her family could not be more thankful to the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital and the people from the Children's Cancer Fund for all of their effort and dedication to her recovery as well as to the recovery of many other children.
Today Rosie is an honor student in Manhattanville College where she finished her freshman year making the Dean’s List. She plans to continue her education in the medical field.
“God gives the toughest battles to his strongest soldiers.” Meet one of them: Peter Pinori.
In December 2012, 24 year old Peter, woke up to find a small lump in his neck. His primary doctor sent him to an ENT, where they ordered a needle biopsy of the lump. But by this time, the lump seemed irrelevant because he had developed another lump; this one was the size of a golf ball. On December 14, 2012, Peter was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which means it had metastasized to his neck, spine and abdomen.
After his diagnosis, he was transferred to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital on a recommendation from his sister Daniela. Daniela works as a Pediatric Oncology Nurse and recommended that he be seen by Dr. Mitchell Cairo. After he had a phone conversation with Dr. Cairo, Peter told his family: “I had a good feeling about the whole thing."
Peter recalls: “I took the news better than my family. Cancer takes a big hit on your life. When I found I had cancer I was like ‘really?’…and finding out I had Stage 4 Cancer was a devastating blow.” But that didn’t change his spirit, “you have to remain positive. Stay funny, keep people close to you happy. My family was strong and kept me going.”
Following his second round of chemotherapy, the doctors ordered a PET scan, as they routinely do, in order to see if the chemotherapy is effective in treating the cancer cells. When they returned to tell him the results, they told him there was no trace of disease. In other words, the therapy had worked and he was in complete remission and cancer free!
After six months of chemotherapy, Peter feels he is lucky to be here. “Six months of chemotherapy to some of these kids is nothing. They have been through so much more, I’m the lucky one.” He also credits the Doctors, Nurses, and Staff at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital to his healthy return. “This place is amazing. The care and hospitality here are the best in the world. The doctors and nurses are like family to me.” Peter would like to help other kids in the future that are going through the same experience. “I’d like to talk to kids to help them what they are going through.”
The whole experience gave Peter a new perspective on life. “Going through cancer, you have no excuse to complain about anything. Life can’t be that bad anymore. I want to keep living and want to enjoy my life.” Peter is inspired to try out for the American Ninja Warriors – where hundreds of competitors challenge themselves against an obstacle course to qualify for a shot at making it to Japan to compete in Sasuke 23. The prize to win is a half million dollars which he plans to donate if he wins.
“Having cancer is like going through an obstacle course. If this didn’t beat me, nothing can.”
Emily Thatcher is an all around warm, caring and compassionate person. She greets life with a big smile and positive energy. This has not changed since she was diagnosed with Leukemia in January 2010. Emily is the 16-year-old daughter of Rob and Lenore Thatcher of Chester, NY; she has an older brother Brendan who is 18. She is a junior at the Monroe-Woodbury High School and has been on the A honor roll for the past five years. Emily is now in remission of ALL, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, which is a cancer of the white blood cells.
Prior to being diagnosed with ALL, Emily was an avid soccer player. She played on many premiere level teams, where she was often the lead scorer and voted captain by her peers. Unfortunately, due to steroids during treatment, Emily developed avascular necrosis of her knees. This has sidelined her from soccer, but true Emily style, she decided to give a new sport a try. Emily played Varsity Golf for school this past spring and did quite well.
Emily’s outlook never faltered; she remained focused on getting better, doing well in school and being involved in the community. Emily did not give it a second thought to add The Children’s Cancer Fund to the many charities that were already close to her heart. Emily always knew the significance of helping others in need but never imagined she would be on the receiving end of such a cause. Emily now knows first hand the importance of foundations, especially The Children’s Cancer Fund, who are working hard to find a cure for childhood cancers while supporting their patients.