Melissa and Tony are both childhood kidney cancer survivors. They have been friends for three years and have built a special bond based from their similar experiences with cancer. Telling their stories and raising awareness about childhood cancer is a huge passion for both of them.
Melissa's story: Melissa was diagnosed with Stage 5 Wilms Tumor when she was 10 years old. Her tumor had burst her right kidney and spread to her other kidney, liver and lungs. The tumor was initially too big to be removed so she received extensive chemotherapy and radiation in attempts to shrink it. Two months later, the tumor had shrunk to a small enough size to have it removed. The doctors were able to remove 90% but 10% remained dangerously wrapped around her liver. Melissa continued her chemotherapy regimine but after finishing her protocol, the tumor still remained. The doctors prepared her family for a dangerous operation. At this point, people all over the country were praying for Melissa. Before the surgery could be done, the doctors wanted a CT scan. On December 31st, 1998, Melissa's family got the best call of their lives. The tumor had disappeared and there would be no reason to have the surgery. Melissa has been cancer free ever since! Not a day goes by where she isn't thankful that God chose to spare her life and she loves seeing how He is using her to help other people. She is now living out her dream of working as a pediatric oncology nurse. Her main goal is to make a difference in the lives of her patients and their families and use her story and experiences to offer hope and positivity in the midst of such a difficult time.
Tony's Story: Tony is a 14 year old cancer survivor. He was first diagnosed July 13, 2011 at the age 11 with Clear Cell Sarcoma of the kidney. He had his right kidney removed, went through radiation and 28 weeks of Chemo. Treatment ended February 2012. Tony went on to have a wonderful year. Getting back into normal. February 2013 at a regular scheduled scan a tumor was discovered where his kidney was near his liver. Later a second tumor was found near his colon. Tony had relapsed with Clear Cell Sarcoma. Tony went through experimental T-cell treatment at NIH. This treatment was not successful. He returned to his treating hospital and had the tumors removed and went through 6 months of chemo and radiation again at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL
Tony has had numerous surgeries, many treatments and he always has a smile on his face.
Tony has been out of treatment since October 2013 and currently has 4 clear scans.
His hope is that he will have a normal high school year since he was on hospital homebound for 90% of his 3 years in middle school. He is grateful to start off his freshman year and make it the first day of school.
Tony has spoken numerous times in front of several hundred people about pediatric cancer and how there needs to be more money for research. He helped raise money for a teen friend that is battling and he has spoken in Washington, DC to congress lobbying for better medical care for sick children and bringing with him pediatric cancer awareness. Tony currently has 4 speaking engagements coming up in the next 4 months. One is at the National Mall in Washington, Dc September 21, 2014. He also has been in the news on numerous occasions in the last 3 years helping bring awareness.
Tony’s Quote “Never look behind you always look forward at the future and have Hope and Faith”