MUSKOKA – When her son had been diagnosed with cancer shortly before his third birthday, Lynn DiGiacomo thought it was a mistake.
After being told he was cancer-free, Clayton DiGiacomo, bottom right, held a celebration party with his family and raised funds for the Hospital for Sick Children and Camp Oochigeas on Nov. 17.
/ Submitted photo
“He just had a cold, cold symptoms that wouldn’t go away,” said DiGiacomo, who was glad the diagnosis came quickly. “It was the first time as a parent I couldn’t calm him to make him feel better.”
Since the symptoms wouldn’t go away she took Clayton, who is now 10, to the hospital emergency department, thinking he may need antibiotics for a virus. Doctors noticed his white blood cell count was high and had his blood tested at a lab in Burk’s Falls.
“Someone noticed something wasn’t right with the blood,” she said. “We’re very fortunate it was caught here … some families wait months for a diagnosis and that was a Wednesday morning and we knew by Thursday afternoon.”
From then on it was all very fast and Clayton had his first round of chemotherapy that Saturday and his first surgery on Monday.
“All of a sudden we were thrown into a whole different world with a whole different language,” she said. “It took probably about two weeks of us being numb to realize this was going to be a journey.”
Clayton was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), one of the most popular forms of childhood cancers.
“The problem with cancer is sometimes it’s not the cancer that kills, it’s the colds, it’s the infections, it’s those types of things that we were most concerned about,” said DiGiacamo. “Chemo just knocks your blood right down and you have no immune system whatsoever.”
Clayton’s parents kept him home often when he wasn’t in the hospital so that he couldn’t catch any illnesses that may have been going around. After seven years of treatment he was given the all clear earlier this summer.
“The best part of all of this is Clayton doesn’t remember a lot of the stuff he went through,” she said, not the 130 weeks of chemotherapy, the pain involved with treatment or the isolation.
DiGiacomo said she felt like she had taken a breath when the doctors delivered the good news.
“I didn’t realize I was holding it. This is what we were aiming for,” she said. “Yes, it took us a long time but we finally got here.”
The family decided to hold a celebration party on Nov. 17 and raised funds for the Hospital for Sick Children and Camp Oochigeas, a camp for children with cancer.
They received raffle donations from a number of local businesses to help with the party and raised about $600.
While the DiGiacamo’s are happy Clayton is cancer free, their hearts still ache for those they know who didn’t beat cancer and those still fighting the disease.
“Fight and never stop,” advised Clayton.
“As a parent I would say keep a positive attitude,” added his mother. “Make a plan and stick to it.”