FAMILIES YOU HAVE HELPED
2019 began as what was to be a very exciting year for the DeMichele family. Dan and his wife, Megan were expecting their second child in July, and their 3 year old son, Nathan was super excited to become a big brother later that year. (Their daughter Gracyn was born on July 3rd, 2019!)
A little before Christmas 2018, Dan had begun to experience tremendous lower back pain that seemed to be getting worse by the day. He was seeing a chiropractor and a pain management doctor to try and get to the root cause of the back pain, but no one seemed to be able to figure it out.
Eventually his chiropractor ordered an MRI of Dan’s pelvis to rule out any degenerative hip disease. This MRI didn’t show anything wrong with Dan’s hips, but it did reveal a soft tissue mass in the descending colon that was consistent with colon cancer and a colonoscopy was ordered.
After the colonoscopy, the DeMichele’s life changed forever on May 23rd, 2019. The mass found during the colonoscopy was biopsied and was in fact malignant, and they suggested a consult with an oncologist.
About a week later, an oncologist told the DeMichele family that a PT scan had shown spread of the disease from the colon to the liver, and other nondescript areas in Dan’s abdomen, and Dan was officially diagnosed at this time with a stage 4 Adenocarcinoma colon cancer.
An aggressive 12 rounds of chemo began on June 7th, 2019. The chemo was tough, but with the support of friends and family, Dan finished his initial 12 rounds of chemo on November 1st, 2019. Initial scans showed significant improvement in the size of the tumors, but further treatment was needed and Dan was set to begin a maintenance dose of chemotherapy once every three weeks.
On December 11th, 2019, Dan was rushed to JFK Medical Center with severe abdominal pain. A CT scan revealed a perforation of the colon, and Dan was prepped for surgery. A successful surgery removed nearly a foot of Dan’s colon, including the tumor in his colon, but also showed some spots of cancer not originally seen in previous imaging.
Complications and recovery from this surgery resulted in several hospital stays and delayed the continuation of chemotherapy resulting in progression of disease. In addition, Dan spent a little over 4 months out of work. Thankfully he was able to return to work from home on 4/15/20.
Dan is currently on a second 12 round dose of new chemo medications, and should hopefully be able to soon get updated CT scans to see how the cancer is reacting to the new treatment. With the tremendous outpouring of love and support of friends and family, Dan is confident he will win this fight.
The DeMichele family is so thankful for this opportunity to work with the FUCE 5k this year, and is looking forward to helping Nancy and her team with anything they need for many years to come!
Mary Nielsen turned 15 on January 18th and we never expected anything like this would ever happen. Mary is a freshman at Edison High School. She is out-going, full of life and always has a smile on her face. With all of the medical challenges and even a 6 hour surgery, Mary was, is, and remains incredibly positive facing her medical battle. Her principal told me that Mary made a huge impact at the high school in the few short months she has been a freshman.
Mary loves to sing, and is a member of the Acapella choir at EHS and, as a freshman, that is pretty impressive. Mary was a cheerleader for the Edison High School football team. She had never cheered before and it was a great experience. In September, Mary started to complain of back pain. We assumed it was normal muscle strain because she was out of shape physically and now exercising with the cheer team.
Over the next couple of months, we tried everything from heat packs to cold packs, Advil and creams for her back pain but nothing really worked. We saw her doctor and he confirmed it was simply muscle pain, continue exercising and it would go away. When cheerleading ended the workouts ended too but her back pain continued.
A couple of days before the new year, Mary expressed weakness in her legs and spent time resting.
Sadly, the day before the new year, Mary took a step and collapsed. She could not get up, she could not walk. We took her to JFK Hospital and within hours Mary had an MRI. Two hours later the top Neurosurgeon of the JFK New Jersey Neuroscience Institute was on her way to perform a time sensitive emergency surgery.
She stated that Mary’s situation was extremely rare, it only happens in adults and rarely children. Every disk in Mary’s back is compressed and she herniated L1 and L2 just at the spinal canal tip. The doctor explained the surgery may only relieve the pressure but the damage to the nerves could be permanent. When Mary awoke from surgery, our fears were confirmed; Mary’s legs were unable to move. It’s been 25 days and with help from children’s specialized hospital in patient rehab, Mary has been able to regain bowel and bladder control and has regained feeling in her legs. She still can’t stand, or lift her legs, or walk but she is fighting to walk again!
The surgeon told us just yesterday she is doing Mary and her positive attitude is key for her success; however, we do not know what the future holds. Our home is not wheelchair accessible and Mary’s room and bathroom are on the second floor, these obstacles are a great worry.
Knowing there are people cheering Mary on is a great support system for our family.
Mary is AMAZING and has really shown me what determination is. She doesn’t cry or give up…she laughs while struggling to pull her body with her arms, she has learned to move her body on a board to her wheelchair, bed, and special wheelchair to use as a toilet.
Throughout it all she just keeps saying, “I have to stay positive.” She misses school, her friends, and being home. Mary is a special person and will overcome all her challenges but any help we can get is a blessing.
Thank you so much for reaching out and wanting to help. It is appreciated more than you know…financially I’m not secure at all so thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Gianna Vega is a smart, kind and athletic 15 year old daughter, sister and friend. As a Disney fanatic at heart, and a strong consistent desire to be near the water-traveling is always on her list of things to do.
Gianna grew up surrounded by her closest friends playing a huge variety of sports. She has an extremely dedicated and passionate personality which lead her to be able to play the sports she loved as well as obtain and maintain Honor Roll throughout the school year.
Even while balancing both work and play, Gianna always seemed to be focusing on the one thing she loved the most-making OTHERS happy.
For those of you who know Gianna, know that she is a whole-hearted human being who is always willing to put her friends and family before herself-no matter the circumstances.
November 2019 was unfortunately a rough month for Gianna. There was a long period of time where she was consecutively ill with all different symptoms daily, however was most consistent with the pain that she was receiving from her throat. After multiple doctor visits, scans/screenings and tests, Gianna was finally diagnosed with a real problem-Secretory Carcinoma in her Parotid Gland. The tumor (now named Timmy) was removed November 13, 2019 with a follow up of 6 weeks of radiation. There were quite a few rough patches and complications since then-but nothing Gianna wouldn’t fight to overcome.
This journey itself has definitely not been easy – However Gianna has been stronger than ever and couldn’t thank everyone enough for their unconditional amounts of love and support that she has received.
Seeing her go through what she has to, at such a young age, has truly been an inspiration to so many people for the simple fact that she hasn’t given up.
With all of the changes going on in her life, Gianna still manages to brighten anyone’s day up with just a simple smile.
Joe and Kate Eosso are life long Metuchen residents. They have two boys. Michael 15 is a sophomore at Metuchen high school and Christopher,10, is in fifth grade at Edgar Middle School. Kate is an employee of the Metuchen School District. Joe had worked for Acme foods for over 37 years. He started at the Metuchen Acme in 1982.
In bittersweet recent news, Joe is retiring this year as he simply cannot continue to work with his condition. In the summer 2019, Joe, 54 years young at the time, was told he needed to undergo treatment for Multiple Myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow).
Joe received a chemo cocktail for a few months which unfortunately did not work on him. He was part of the 5% that the protocol was unsuccessful for.
Another stronger cocktail was started last fall and he has been kept under strict watch by the cancer center in Hackensack. The treatment is working and hopefully he will receive the auto stem cell transplant he needs within the next couple of months.
He will be spending plenty more time at that point with the incredible staff of doctors and nurses and transplant coordination teams up there for an extended stay.
Joe and Kate are determined to keep this an ugly bump in their family’s ultimate road trip of life and look forward to celebrating many birthdays, football and hockey games, graduations and Sunday dinners with family.
They are believers in living by The Golden Rule and are extremely grateful to be still living in a community as loving and close knit as Metuchen. Joe and Kate and Michael and Chris thank you more than words can say for your support.
My partner, Oscar Zanoni, died on January 3rd, 2020 after being struck by a tractor trailer while riding his electric trike. He was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, grew up in Bonhamtown and was a Metuchen resident for the past 8 years. He lived his life at full throttle, defying all odds when he survived and recovered from a brain aneurysm at 9 years old and then thrived to later live an independent life.
Oscar loved his family, friends, dogs, biking, Metuchen, The MAX Challenge of Edison and us (Wendy, Alex, Bella, Angel Max and Angel Augie). He also loved jokes and puns. He was a great storyteller. Our life was full of love and laughter. Oscar immersed himself in the Metuchen community. Some referred to him as “the unofficial Mayor of Metuchen”. He was always quick to lend a hand to those who needed help, whether that meant taking care of their pets (He thought nothing of rolling around on the lawn and sidewalk to greet/meet a dog.), doing lawnwork, shoveling a sidewalk, checking in to make sure they were okay or having me bake or cook something for them so they knew that someone cared.
We loved going downtown to see all of our Metuchen friends, who quickly became family at the fairs, parades, farmer’s market and arts events. It didn’t matter if we were just running errands, picking up prescriptions, shopping for gifts, going for ice cream or getting a bite to eat, the outing would grow as Oscar smiled, said hello and talked to everyone. Oscar had worried that he wasn’t going to leave his mark in the world. His mark was definitely left in Metuchen as evidenced by everyone who has shared stories about the people and dogs whose lives he touched.
Although my heart is shattered, it is being held together with the tremendous outpouring of love and support I have received from our Metuchen Family. I cannot thank you enough for all of the calls, hugs, cards, rides to and from doctor’s appointments and medical procedures and help with Alex and Bella.
The Fuccile Foundation had always been near and dear to our hearts (Oscar participated in all of The MAX Challenge Fuce 5K fundraisers and we always bought and ate way too many cookies from The Cookie Walk every year) but I never thought I would be on the receiving end of their generosity.
Thank you for all you do for families whose lives will never be the same again.
– Wendy Kukowski
Like many parents, Susan Pisarchik was inundated with everything that comes along with having 3 teenage sons. The spring of 2019 was packed with 3 graduations, prom, class trips, college tours and applications. Susan is a 48 year old working single mom and resident of Metuchen for the past 24 years. Her 18 year old twins were graduating MHS and her youngest was graduating 8th grade at St. Francis Cathedral School. Susan is a home infusion nurse who takes care of patients in need of IV therapy in their homes. She is also known as the “neighborhood nurse” and is always available to check on anyone in her neighborhood that needs a nurse’s eye.
In January 2019, Susan began experiencing vertigo, dizziness and blurred vision. Doctors initially dismissed her symptoms as natural part of getting older. As a single mom she put her symptoms aside until her symptoms continued to worsen.
Knowing something was not right Susan advocated for herself and insisted her doctor send her for a neurological work up. Part of the prep for her appointment was an MRI.
That MRI revealed a large brain tumor.
This past May, Susan was diagnosed with a meningioma the size of a golf ball. Because of its size, location, and brain swelling, she needed immediate surgery.
In June, she underwent a ten-hour surgery followed by months of physical and occupational therapy.
During this time her biggest concern was missing her son’s graduation from 8th grade and the twins graduation from high school. Through her strength and determination she made her way to both those events. Susan dedicated herself to her recovery knowing that her family was depending on her both financially and emotionally.
She was making great progress and given the go ahead to return to work for a few hours a day.
While easing her way back into work, one of her sons experienced a medical emergency. Susan needed to extend her time home while she cared for her son as they worked out the next steps for his treatment.
As a mother, Susan wishes to protect the privacy of her son’s health condition. Her extended absence due to her son’s medical issues as well as no salary during the months of her own illness has left Susan with medical bills and depleted funds for everyday expenses.
Susan and her family are grateful for the support of the FUCE 5 foundation, her family, friends and the Metuchen and St. Francis community. She is also looking forward to returning to her spot at the FUCE 5 where she has been a volunteer for years.
If you suspect something is no right with your health, please insist on getting the tests needed even if you don’t fall within the “normal” profile – it may save your life.