One of five St. Baldrick's Foundation 2011 Ambassador KidsOn January 28, 2010, 11-year-old Pietro was the champion of a local math competition - a significant accomplishment for any child, but a miracle for a child who had brain surgery just five days prior. Earlier in the month, Pietro’s parents noticed a loss of appetite, complaints of headaches and a generally grouchy demeanor from their typically laid-back son. On a hunch, Pietro’s mother, Miriam, a radiologist, with his physician father, Benedetto, took him to her office for a brain MRI. During the MRI, Benedetto stepped out of the room to take a call. He returned to find his wife in tears – she had seen the tumor on the first image and their world had changed.Pietro was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer. An appointment was scheduled with a neurosurgeon immediately, and Pietro pleaded with his doctor to delay surgery to remove the tumor so he could participate in the upcoming math competition. Surgery couldn’t wait but his doctor promised him, “If you are doing well and can walk, I will discharge you in time to attend.” The day before the competition, Pietro, sitting in his hospital bed, looked at his dad and said, “Let’s walk.” Not only did he win the competition the following day, he went on to win at the state level, as well. When Pietro learned of his tumor, he asked, “Can’t you give me a shot or a pill to take care of it?” The doctor sadly shook his head, but with dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon himself, perhaps Pietro will be the researcher who will one day discover the simple treatment he had hoped for.
_________Pietro's story, as written by his family:Pietro is an 11 years old boy who was diagnosed with a brain tumor called Medulloblastoma in mid January 2010. For about three weeks, he had been experiencing headaches which were somewhat atypical. On January 20th Pietro came to our bedroom in the middle of the night complaining of a headache. That morning my wife, a Radiologist, decided to take Pietro to work with her to perform an MRI of his brain and I decided to accompany them so I could take him back to school after the study was completed. I was sitting in the MRI control room with my wife and just as the MRI started my cell phone rang. I stepped out to answer the call; however, the call dropped. When I returned to the room five seconds later, I saw the tears in my wife eyes. I will never forget that moment as our lives changed forever in one second. Like any parents we wanted the very best for our child. We called several colleagues and even spoke to Dr. Ben Carson at John Hopkins. All roads led us to Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor. There we met several wonderful, compassionate caring physicians including Dr. Hugh Garton MD, the Pediatric Neurosurgeon and Dr. Patricia Robertson MD , the Pediatric Oncologist. Pietro had surgery two days later and the tumor was entirely removed. Further diagnostics and tumor staging resulted in a label of an average risk Medulloblastoma. Pietro is currently in treatment. He will complete radiation therapy by the end of March and is scheduled to begin Chemotherapy in April. If all goes well he should complete treatments in about 50 weeks. Throughout this journey Pietro has maintained a positive outlook and has been an inspiration to our family. Five days after undergoing a craniotomy and a ten hour surgery he returned to school and took 1st place in a Math competition called Math 24. Although he tires quickly he has continued to attend school and maintains an A grade level. Like most children he enjoys playing video games. When we get out to play in the snow and he gets tired, he will take a break and lay in a snow pile taking in the rays. His favorite outside activity is snow skiing, biking and football.Pietro is a very polite and kind little boy who has done a whole lot of growing up in a very short while. I think the best description of our son would be by an example. One evening while we were praying as a family before the children went to bed I told Pietro about all the wonderful people at work and school whom were praying for him to have a quick recovery. I told him we was a very special boy. He looked up to me and said "Who prayers for all the people that have no one?" My 11 year old son taught me a very important lesson now we pray for all Gods children.ONE YEAR UPDATE:Pietro is quickly approaching the one year anniversary since his brain cancer (Medulloblastoma) was diagnosed and changed his and our lives forever. Looking back it has been quite a year! Certainly it has been filled with its share of pain and suffering but there have been many wonderful events that accompanied his journey as well. Characteristic of Pietro has been his positive outlook which has helped soften many of his adversities. Pietro is a big football fan and over the past year he has been privileged to meet many famous sport figures, including Lloyd Carr, Brian David Griese, Steven J. Hutchinson, and Charles Woodson to name a few. In addition, he has participated and spoken at several charity events that have contributed to the Saint Baldrick’s cause. Most exciting however is that Pietro has been chosen to be one of the five ambassadors to Saint Baldrick’s this year! Currently, Pietro has completed just over 80% of his chemotherapy and all of his MRIs have been clear. Although he maintains a positive attitude, these treatments have been taxing on him. With each subsequent treatment the recovery of his bone marrow, immunity system and strength has been prolonged. Amazingly he has managed these adversities and has continued to move forward. He has continued to go to school and maintain an A grade average. He continues to participate in many extracurricular events and is on the student council. Sometimes he gets tired in class, when this occurs he simply raises his hand and is allowed to go to the school office. Once there, he has a couch, a University of Michigan blanket and pillow. He will kindly ask one of the office staff to wake him in 45 minutes and he then returns to class refreshed. This year Pietro has decided to participate in our locate area Saint Baldrick’s event in Romeo, Michigan which is scheduled for March 12th. Pietro's Chemotherapy consist of two different protocols which results in his hair growing then falling out after each fourth month of treatment. As it works out he will have a full head of hair around that time. When he realized that, he came to me and asked to be included in the shaving event. His words were “why should I let a perfectly set of hair go to waste.” So this year Pietro will head up Team Pietro at the Saint Baldrick’s event.