Vinny was born in October 2003. This special little boy was a fighter from the moment he was born, as he immediately faced the challenges of a severe cleft lip, a cleft palate and pulmonary stenosis (a heart defect). During the first four years of his life, he underwent several cleft-related surgeries. Just when his parents thought the worst was behind him, Vinny was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma in February 2008. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancerous tumor of the muscles that are attached to the bones. It is the most common soft tissue tumor found in children. In Vinny’s case, the Rhabdo had penetrated into the left Temporal Lobe of his brain, and extended all through the skull, nasal passages, and down to the base of his tongue. Vinny immediately began undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and a year later, on February 2, 2009, he was declared cancer free! In Vinny’s words, he “won” his cancer, and what a warrior he was throughout that difficult year! For the next nine months, Vinny enjoyed a “normal” life with limited hospital visits. He went to preschool and enjoyed time playing with his friends. He built Legos, went to the beach and baked cakes! Unfortunately, Vinny’s small reprieve from the Cancer World ended in November 2009, just a month after his sixth birthday, when his MRI showed the tumor had recurred, this time in his lung. His prognosis was not good, however, Vinny was determined to once again “win” his cancer! What a warrior he is!! In the three years since this recurrence, Vinny has undergone treatment for tumors in his left eye as well as his pelvis, in addition to his brain and lung. He has dealt with more pain, more treatments and more sickness in his short 8-1/2 years than most people deal with in their entire lifetimes. But there is a saying that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, and Vinny is living proof that this must be true! This special little boy continues to persevere through every challenge that is presented to him, and in the process, he has inspired people around the world! His never-ending bravery is a true testament to Send Love Today’s motto Never Give Up! Although Vinny faces a lifetime of treatments to keep the cancers in check, he and his loving family continue to do what they can to get the most enjoyment out of life. Vinny’s older sister Desiree recently graduated from the sixth grade. She does very well in school despite her constant worry about her little brother and her parents’ need to devote so much time and attention to him. Vinny himself, athough home schooled most of the time due to his illness, was recently awarded the Most Loved Award at his school’s 2012 Awards Day ceremony. Vinny has also caught the love and attention of celebrity Bowzer, of Sha Na Na fame. He learned about Vinny’s incredible journey and paid a visit to Vinny at home. Vinny won his heart immediately, and Bowzer has continued to stay in touch with Vinny and his family ever since. Vinny has touched so many lives in the course of his journey, and I’m sure he will touch many more. His courage and his love of life inspire us all every day! We love you Vinny! We thank you for your bravery and for teaching all of us what is truly important in this life! You are our super trooper!!
Sidenote: in the course of Vinny’s numerous treatments at “Camp Brenner” (aka Brenner’s Pediatric Oncology Ward), Vinny’s parents, along with the parents of other children treated there, started a non-profit organization called Kids of Childhood Cancer (www.kidsofchildhoodcancer.org). They raise money to support the families in the ward with financial help for medical bills and insurance. They also provide snacks, meals, gas cards, clothes, toys, and whatever else may be needed on an individual basis. They recently opened a Beach Condo “Safe Haven” that families with children suffering from cancer can use for family vacations. This condo is located at the St. Regis Resort on North Topsail Beach, NC. It is no surprise that Vinny has the heart of a survivor – he comes by it honestly from his two loving and very courageous parents!!