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Childhood Cancer Awareness

❤️️ Luciana’s Story

… the heartbreak and triumph of a local Salem County family

On May 19th 2021 I went to the hospital to deliver my second baby. Not knowing the gender, my husband and I were excited! We had a good ole time in our delivery room, laughing, reading, breathing through contractions – luckily for only a few short hours. Not knowing those were the last short hours my mind would be at ease, just pure excitement for what was to come. Seconds after birth and I mean seconds, Luciana Marie Italiano was taken from me, as I was basking in the moment I actually have a little girl to join big Brother Enzo at home, rushed over to the incubator table where a team of 10 rushed in like an army, and out of the room my daughter went, with only 20 seconds to hug and kiss her goodbye. She was rushed to the NICU at Christiana hospital due to an 8×8 mass on her neck. Four hours after birth, Luciana Marie was transferred to Nemours AI DuPont while I was discharging myself to be with her. We had no clue what was to come, and letting our family know was difficult, because we had no answers for all the questions.

Luciana at birth in ICU

Upon walking into our room at AI Dupont, I was met and blessed with the sweetest staff on the NICU North floor, Room 21. After the hardest days of my life, and a biopsy later, we find out my daughters mass is in fact a cancerous tumor called neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is very rare for a diagnosis at birth. That same sentence of “neuroblastoma” was met with “this is the protocol for chemotherapy we are going to start asap”. Here is my daughter, fighting for her life with a breathing tube, on morphine, about to start chemotherapy at 9 days old. For 3 long brutal months, full of chemotherapy, celebrating milestones, deemed in remission on July 10th, crying due to setbacks, but again, had a care team of 4 nurses who quickly became family— we were discharged to come home on August 17th. While Luciana had other quality of life issues due to the placement of the tumor, she has thrived ever since. While she is not cancer free, the tumor has been continuing to shrink, rather slowly ever since.

We spent 2 days every week at the hospital for different clinical visits, ENT, Allergy, Oncology, GI, Nutrition, Speech Therapy, Lab work, NICU follow-up, and the list goes on. We also spend 2 days every 3 months getting protocol MRI and MIBG scans, to track her tumor. Little Lulu (thankful for her care team in providing the cutest nickname) has been through so much in just 3 months of life, than most adults in their lifetime. While inpatient, we learned of a “Beads of Courage” program. Luciana received a bead for every prick, prod, placement, test, milestone, sad milestone (which included losing her hair)—so we can all remember, just how far she has come.

Pediatric cancer is never spoken about, never really talked about, and never brought awareness – until you or a family member steps into the those shoes. It’s a feeling you can never un-feel. While Lulu has went through quite the journey over the past 15 months, I have been there every step of the way, fighting for her, advocating for her, and making sure her voice is heard. I am her voice. The statistics are sad. The federal dollar amount towards pediatric cancer is 4%, while the rest of the 96% goes toward adults. Chemo drugs are the same no matter the age. Most states do not help assist families with children who have cancer and need to undergo extensive lifelong treatment, New Jersey being one of them. Advocating for children who need help, who did not ask for cancer, who fight better than adults, and don’t understand, but understand enough of just what is going on – against healthcare facilities, state health departments and federal health departments who run their agencies like business, is tough. Living with extensive medical bills is the least of my worries, as long as I have my little girl doing life with me by my side.

Lulu has been beating the odds, participating in clinical cancer research studies, and growing stronger and growing through her NICU problems everyday: She has paralyzed vocal cords, Horner’s syndrome from tumor placement, a Gtube placed due to silent aspiration; not to mention the chemotherapy effects: slow growing teeth, slow muscle growth, hair loss/hair growth, the ability to just develop allergies because the chemo lingers in her body, ongoing skin issues, eczema and possible fertility issues as she grows.

Would I change anything? Absolutely not. Beautiful things come from cancer, no matter the outcome.

Luciana has brought a whirlwind of emotions and pray that I never knew existed. Friends and family have helped tremendously. The community banded together and brought awareness. Other cancer moms I’ve never met sent gifts, words of wisdom and checked in everyday. The local churches recognize Luciana and pray for her daily. She is prayed for worldwide, this little girl from Salem County NJ. My family will continue to bring awareness for all the years to come, and celebrate Lulu and the triumphs overcome. While I did not have the perfect birth story, my story is absolutely perfect, along with my Warrior Princess Luciana. To be continued.

Luciana sleeping in hero outfit
Luciana at 3 months old during treatment. They call children with cancer superheroes. A dear friend sent this adorable outfit for Lulu.

Luciana smiles with tube in her nose
July 10th on Remission Day

Luciana
Lulu’s first birthday

❤️️ Laurel Moore’s Story

Laurel Moore was diagnosed with a right Wilms Timor (kidney cancer) December 10, 2019. Just one month from her 3rd birthday. She had a full right nephrectomy followed by 5 months of Chemotherapy. This was devastating news. We were heartbroken.

These last 2 years had been tough to say the least and that’s not even adding covid to the mix. I wanted to take a minute and list all the blessing, comforts, and joys these last two years had brought us. Without God I have no clue how I would have made it through any of this. He was my rock, healer, gave me strength to get up every day, comfort when I felt like I was drowning, and peace when I thought we would never see the end. We put our faith and trust in God and he blessed us more then we deserved.

Laurel survived her 8.5hr surgery that removed an almost 4lbs tumor and her right kidney. We were allowed all our family in hospital to get us through this (thankful just before covid). Laurel recovered very quickly from surgery (she had an incision almost half way around her little body) and a port placed.

Little girl being held up in dad's arms outside in front of car

We had amazing family and friends that watched over our other two children. We had an amazing church family that made us meals for many many months. Even friends, family, and people we didn’t know from our community brought food for us and the kids. We had so many people and local churches praying for us and that brought us the most comfort.

Laurel rocked the 5 months of chemotherapy with little to no side effects. She even helped the nurses draw blood and give her her own medicine threw her port. Laurel had many MRIs, CTscans, ultrasounds, xrays, blood work, and surgeries without much fuss. She has been tested for covid so many times now all while she was strapped in her car seat and took it like a champ!

Laurel is doing very well now! Laurel is still monitored every 6 months for enlarged lymph nodes in her belly that have been stable for 28 months now. Her oncologist won’t say she’s cancer free till year 5 (May 1st 2025).

Laurel loves going to school and learning to read and write! She plays soccer and apart of a dance team! She really is the sweetest, strongest, and most amazing little girl I know! And the best part of all of these is that we get to hug and love on her for each passing day! Each day I thank God so much for seeing her through this.

My family will continue to bring childhood cancer awareness for many years to come. Childhood Cancer is very rare and not too many people know that the federal dollar amount towards pediatric cancer is only 4%, while the rest of the 96% goes toward adult research. That’s why we have to be advocates for our children! I am very honored I was given the opportunity to share Laurel’s story with you! I hope it shines some light and hope for someone else in our community!

Little girl in hospital bed with blankets and a dollLaurel Day after surgery.

Little girl flexing biceps with pink dress onLaurel 1 year cancer free.

Little girl holding stuffed animal Laurel 2 years cancer free.

Get Involved

There are countless opportunities to get involved in the fight again childhood cancer.  You can…

  • Help Raise awareness
  • Advocate for the cause
  • Fundraise
  • Support research and resources for children and families

While we can’t list them all, here are links to some of the most well-known organizations supporting Childhood Cancer to help you get started.

Donate

Don’t have time to get involved directly?  Your donation can impact childhood cancer research and legislation and provide support and services to impacted children and families.  There are so many ways to give.

  • Donate a vehicle
  • Purchase Items that support Childhood Cancer
  • Give to research
  • Support assistance programs for children and families

Below are link to a few of the most well-known organizations providing support to the cause.  Just look for the DONATE tab or button.

Until theres a cure lets all fight together
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