Honored Kid

Joey DiBenedetto

Age 27
Joey DiBenedetto Kid Photo


Holiday, FL, US



Date of Diagnosis

October 2008


Cancer free

Treated At

Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital

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My Story

This here is the story on my son Joey DiBenedetto and his survival story on Osteosarcoma. also known as bone cancer. My son Joey was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma back in late September of 2008. Joey was into sports and was with the football team, The West Pasco Prowlers here in Holiday, FL. Joey has always had a love for football and was happy to be on a team doing what he loved. He was on this team for 1 full season and was diagnosed during his second season. In 2008, I had a baby, who was born 6 weeks early. Joey had always wanted a brother because he had already had 3 sisters and to give him a little brother was a joy. Yes, we could say we were very blessed to have this little boy enter our lives and Joey was very happy. In September of 2008, when Lorenzo, our baby was 2 months old, Joey started having problems in his right leg near his knee. We didn't think anything of it because I thought it was due to him playing football and maybe thinking it was because he was tackled in a game and this was the cause of his pain. Then as the pain grew more intense, one day he looked at me and said,"Mom, I can't walk". He was hopping around on his left leg because the pain was very intense and I had notice that he had a large bulge on his right leg. I told my husband that I was taking him to the hospital. When we got to the hospital, Joey had his leg x-rayed. I waited for him in the room and Joey came back after his x-rays were taken and he told me that the x-ray examiner said it was serious. I didn't know what think at first, so I waited until the ER doctor came in an pulled me out into the hallway and told me to go over to a screen where it showed me his x-rays. The doctor looked at me and said we had a serious problem. The x-rays had showed a very large hole in his x-ray. Bone cancer. The x-ray looked like a shark had taken a very large bite out of his leg. The Dr. told me that he was not going home and instead he was going to be transported to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL. My heart sank. Cancer, not a word any mother would want to hear about their child. I had so many emotions that night. Fear, anger, sadness. I thought I was going to lose my son. I called my husband and also his coach. I told them both what was going on and my husband came down right away. They took my son by ambulance to All Children's Hospital and my husband I followed, leaving my car behind. We got to All Children's Hospital where Joey stayed overnight where he was going to have all kinds of test and a biopsy the next morning. Dr. David Cheoung, a specialist with Moffitt Cancer Center, perform the biopsy the next day. I was praying to God that his biopsy would be benign. It seemed like forever for the Dr. to come back to us. After a while, Dr. Cheoung came into the room where he would consult with my husband and myself. He looked at us and said his tumor was malignant. Very cancerous. My husband broke down into tears. This was his first born son, why him??? He also told us that this tumor had stopped growing because it had cut off it's own oxygen supply and could not grown any bigger. This is where our lives had become upside down. Dr, Cheoung had the determination though and told us, he was going to make sure he gets this tumor out of him. We then met with a team of oncologists who were going to put Joey on a schedule for chemotherapy. Led by Dr. Damon Reed, Joey would be treated for this cancer. We were told by Dr. Reed that they wanted us to consider "clinical trials". We had no idea what that was until he told us that it was new drugs being used to see if they were better than the standard form of care. My husband and I heard what he had to say and after much consideration, decided we did not want our son to go through treatment that may or may not work. so, we went for the standard of care which was proven to work. Joey was fixed with a port which was put in his chest so he would be able to have his chemotherapy. This port is positioned in his chest under the skin. I still remember looking at his x-rays and talking to the doctor at All Childrens hospital. I had never cried so much in my life. One of the other doctors of the oncology team, asked us to sit with them so they could go over the x-rays with them and I had only one question. "Was my son going to die?". She looked at me and said, "NO" She told us that Joey had a curable form cancer. What a weight that was lifted off my shoulder and now determination set in. What do we do now? When the doctors told Joey what he had, he was brave. He looked at me and asked me if he was going to die and I told him no, he wasn't. But that he had a long road ahead of him and that he was going to have to be strong during this tough battle. The toughest battle he would ever have to face in his life. When Joeys football team had heard about this, one of the coaches who was very fond of Joey was devastated. He cried so much. His football team came to see him in the hospital for his birthday. His coaches and his teammates had a banner made for him where he could keep it with him in his room so he could see every day how much they were praying for him to get better. The kids on the football team wanted to do something for Joey. They knew Joey was going to lose his hair, so they decided to all shave their heads, coaches too. It was very touching. Joey was the first kid in the teams history to have ever had something like this. They also had a fund raiser for him. "Bowling for Joey". Joey could not attend this as he was in the hospital during this fund raiser. His team went on to win a championship game and won a trophy, but they could not decide at first what to do with it, so they ended up giving it to him. After all, Joey was still a member of the team. During this fund raiser, The St. Petersburg Times, the local newspaper was there doing a story on Joey and this fundraiser. I was very surprised when they gave me the trophy in honor of my son. I cried. I could not believe this team. A bunch of kids with a heart of gold! Truly a team that knows what the word team means! I was so touched by their giving. After all, Joey was not just their teammate, but also their brother! After the fundraiser, I went to see Joey in the hospital the next day. I walked in with the trophy and the look on his face was priceless. He could not believe that his teammates had given him the trophy. Very proud moment for him. He actually had no words for what they had done for him. But he was happy. Joey went though a lot of hard times too, and so did I as a mother. I would have to go back and forth to the hospital and the clinic for tests, treatments, and so forth but I can honestly say that I could not do this without the help of my sister-in-law, Toni. She was one of my rocks that I so needed. She opened her home to me so when ever Joey had to go to the hospital for treatment, which she lived only 10 minutes away, as opposed to me living an hour away,I could be near him. I would have to also juggle a new baby as well.and sometimes I would take my 2 daughters with me as well to help me.This was not easy by any means but she was there, by my side helping me with whatever I needed. Sometimes, I would want to spend the night with Joey in the hospital and I knew I couldn't because I had the baby but she would watch him overnight just so I could be with him. I also had my daughter Karla stay some nights with him. Joey went through vigorous treatments. He had 3 different chemos had to to take. Methotrexate, the nastiest one would cause him to get such bad mouth sore that he would be in the hospital for weeks at a time. I remember one time where he had this medicine and it was so bad he had a temp of 102.7. He was very sick. He would be put on high dose of morphine for the pain because the sores would travel all the way down his gastrointestinal tract. It was very hard not to cry in front of him because I wanted to be strong for him. He would cry sometimes wondering why this was happening to him. Sometimes I had no words for him. He was not at all worried about losing his hair. He had a solution. There was this cap that the football players would wear under their helmets that would keep them cool, so we bought a few of those and he wore a baseball hat over that. What was bothering him was the dry heaves he would have from the drugs. His 3 chemos were Methotrexate, which would give horrendous mouth sores, Doxirubicin, and Cysplatin. These 3 drugs were what were going to kill anything cancerous in his body.He had numerous tests and the good thing about this was that the cancer had not spread to anywhere else in his body. Thank the Lord for this. He went through blocks of chemo for 4 months and the Drs. told us they wanted these drugs to kill this tumor to at least 70%. With Joey, it was different. These drugs killed his tumor, 100% The Drs. were very amazed and very happy. The standard of care had worked. Now time to take the tumor out. Dr. Cheoung had told us about the procedure. It was called limb salvage surgery where it is an alternative treatment to amputation. They would take the tumor out and replace the bad bone with a titanium rod. He would still be able to keep his leg. My husband had done a job for a customer who was one of the founding members of a group of motorcycle guys. The Italian Angels. A great club of men of Italian heritage who ride motorcycles and give to the community and do charity work for those in need. Joey was going to meet this club. When my husband was in contact with them, they decided to come and visit Joey when he was home from the hospital. I can still remember the day. I had coffee and cake waiting for them. We were outside waiting for them and thought it was going to be maybe 5 or 6 guys on bike. Not even! Here they come around the corner of my house. First bike with an Italian and American flag on this bike. The noise from the motorcycles was loud but I watched as this club came to our house. I thought there was a parade coming down the street! Must have been about 20-25 , maybe 30 come around the corner. Joey was in awe as were we! This was amazing. They all put their time aside to come and visit our son. Joey got to meet all of them. This was a very touching moment for us and for them as well. They gave Joey a couple of motorcycle models,and they just loved our son. He met the president of the club. Very nice guy.There were pics taken and even the baby was involved. Joey had such a great time that day. Around Christmas time of 2008, the Angels did another run to our house as they had some gifts to give to Joey. Of course we wanted to see them again as everyone had such a great time the last they came to visit. Boy were we surprised when the came by and gave Joey a certificate. He was now an honorary member of the Italian Angels. What an honor! Joey was now one of them and now had adopted these guys as brothers! I was stunned that they did this for him! Once again, a great bunch of guys who are there when you need them! They have been there for Joey since they met him. Joey loves this club very much and will always be an Angel! February 3rd 2009. I will never forget this date. This was the day of Joeys surgery. The reason I will never forget it was because it was the day before his fathers birthday. We always tease Joey about his leg because the prosthetic was made in England and Joey and the rest of us had to wait 3 weeks while his leg sat in US customs. The doctors were getting aggravated because Joey needed his surgery done so he could get back to his chemo treatments. He had already waited a long time without chemo and the doctors wanted him back on his treatment plan. His surgeon, Dr. Cheoung, conferred with his oncologist, Dr. Damon Reed to make sure Joey would be ok to wait for this prosthetic without having treatment. Finally, it had come in. Joeys surgeon had his prosthetic and was ready to go. One doctor was so aggravated that he told us he was about to travel to get the prosthetic himself if they didn't send it. Here is was, the day of the surgery. My husband I were very nervous about the surgery. They had prepped him that morning for surgery and Dr. Cheoung showed us very briefly what was going into our sons leg. Finally it was time for the operation. We said our goodbyes to Joey and told him we would be here when he was done and told him not to be nervous as we knew he had the best doctors taking good care of him. Joey looked at us and told us he was scared but he was going to have this done and he was going to be brave. He walked out into the hallway on crutches as he didn't want to be wheeled in to the operating room. The tears flowed down his cheeks but also had the determination to beat this! I will never forget his look. It was as if to say,"Mom and Dad, I got this. Time to get rid of this once and for all! This is not going to beat me!"I watched as my son went in and all I could do was burst into tears. This was my baby. I asked God to watch over our son as he was having this procedure done and to guide the doctors to make sure everything was a success. God listened that day! My husband and I walked out of the hospital to the parking lot and sat in his van. The 2 of us cried our eyes out knowing our son was going under the knife. The operation took 5 hours but it seemed like it took an eternity. How was he doing? Was everything going ok? Was he going to make it? I had so many questions running through my head.Every so often, the nurse would come out and give us updates on how things were going. As Tom Petty said, "the waiting is the hardest part" Finally the surgery was done. The nurse came out and told us everything went extremely well. What a joy to hear. Our son did great. I thanked God for the doctors and the whole team who took great care of our son.After he recovered, he was to be sent to his room where he would be monitored. I watched as they rolled him out of recovery and there I saw my son. My husband and I went upstairs with him and stayed with him. The nurses showed us where they had fixed his leg. He had a tube coming out of his leg to drain the excess blood because if it didn't drain, his leg would blow up like a balloon. Joey was very groggy from the anesthetic but knew his mom and dad were there. I walked over to him and kissed him on his forehead and told him I loved him very much and was so very proud of him as did his dad. My husband took a pic of me with him. To this day I still have the pic. Joey did very well recovering. His baby brother and his siblings came to see him as well as his coaches and his new brothers, the Italian Angels. It took a few days for Joey to get used to his new leg. He had to learn to sit up and move around a bit.After all, this was major surgery he just had. On the 4th day, he amazed everyone, including his doctors. He got up on his crutches and started to walk around the floor he was on. A true miracle! He was up and moving around which I thought would take weeks only took 4 days after surgery! He is a living miracle! The hospital order a wheelchair for him but he did not want it. He wanted to get around by himself with no wheelchair. Amazing. This kid had guts and determination to make himself better.I could have not been more proud if him than I was that day. He still had more chemo to do. He was ok with this because he had just gone through a tough hurdle.Over the next few months, he continued with more chemotherapy. Gosh, I thought this was never going to end. Seemed like forever. He went though physical therapy and chemo and the best part is, he never once complained. He knew what he had to to to make himself better. This was a very tough road for him. Something he will never forget. On October 4th of 2009. we had a birthday party for him. During his stay in the hospital, there was a program for kids with cancer and terminal illness. This was the Dream Fund. They make children's wishes come true. Joeys one wish was to visit his favorite team. The NewEngland Patriots. He has loved this team and followed this team ever since he had an interest in football. He watched every game on tv and thought he would actually be on the team someday. This was his dream someday. He told the Dream Fund what he wanted as part of his dream and they were going to do everything they could to make sure he got to meet them. Well, while the Dream Fund was preparing to make his dream come true, my husband and I bought him a car . In 2009, he would be getting his driving permit. With a little coaxing, we guided him on changing his dream and he decided to have the Dream Fund take the car we bought him, a 1994 Mustang GT and "pimp it out". In August of 2009, Joey watched as a tow truck took his car from our driveway and brought it to St, Petresburg, where it would be at the shop for 2 months. He had no idea what was to become of his car! I had planned with the Italian Angels and the Dream Fund to have his car presented to him on his birthday which worked out to a tee. I had coordinated with the Angels to have a formation of 4 bikes in front, his car in the middle and 4 bikes in the back. His sister Karla was part of the procession on one of the bikes. I waited until the owner of the shop who did his car over, showed up in a different parking lot of the park,. As I waited with the Angels, he came around the corner and I burst into tears. I could not believe this was the same car that had left my driveway months before. What a stunning job this guy did and Joey was about to be floored! He had not seen his car since it was taken so he had no idea what was done to it even though he told the shop exactly what he wanted on his car. I also had the owner of the shop drive his car into where he was. I felt it touching for he owner to drive it into him because he was also a cancer survivor himself! I went back to the site of the picnic where Joey was and had a radio going. I put in my cd and blared the music as the car was coming in. "Mustang Sally". I thought it fitting for this occasion. Everyone stood around waiting for the Angels and the car and when it came around the corner, he was just amazed and floored. He could not believe this was his car. We had Channel 13 there doing a story on him and they even filmed the car coming in! What an amazing day! Joey was greeted by the owner of the shop and handed the car over to Joey and the Dream Fund presented the car to him. This was the best birthday present he had ever had. It was also a celebration of the end of his chemo treatments as he did not need any more treatments. He did it! He , along with the doctors, family and friends beside him, he made it. the Angels also blessed his car by throwing money into the car as a symbol of good luck. So many pictures were taken of that day. He was simply elated! I can not remember when we had so much fun! My mom and her husband had come down from Maryland and catered the event. I hadn't seen her in years but she made this occasion a very special one for all of us! Over the next few months, he would be monitored to make sure his cancer would never return. It is now 2011 and every test, every scan he has had, has shown it has not come back. He has now grown to be 5'6" and now weighs 155 lbs. He is a very strong kid with the will and determination to do whatever he wants and he has now been accepted into acting school as he wants to be an actor someday. He works hard in what he does and he wants to be an inspiration to all those have gone through what he has been through. I thank God everyday for giving us our son back. It has been a very tough road but we came together as a family and did what we had to do to make sure he would be ok. Joey is our miracle. He is my inspiration in a sense that if you really put your mind into something and see it all the way through, you will succeed. He sure did! He may not be able to play football again, or he may never be able to meet his favorite team, but he is very happy he is alive. This is something he will never forget and neither will we. Thank you God for being there during our toughest time ever. I give thanks to him and for the guidance he gave us. Joey, my son, momma loves you very much. Update!: Joey is now 17 years old, he has graduated from acting school and has done a short film in St.Petersburg,FL. He has now signed with an agent and is on his way to becoming what he really wants to be. An actor! Congratulations Joey! Momma always knew you could do it! I love you!

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