gmhTODAY Spring 2022 - Page 41

In July 2020 , Sal was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer after an x-ray revealed a mass on his lung which had metastasized to his liver . “ They started with amino therapy , ( treatment that activates your immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells ),” Gina explained . “ With treatment he would have two or three more years if it was successful .”

“‘ Do whatever you have to do ,’ Sal told his doctors , ‘ As long as you fix me ’, “ Gina recalls him saying . “ He never let his diagnosis get in the way of living .”
By February 2021 , after nine rounds of amino treatment , the cancer had spread to his spine . Sal underwent chemotherapy and palliative radiation on his spine . “ He did his brain and spine radiation back-to-back . And he still came to work ,” Gina said .
Soon after the chemo and radiation therapy , Sal experienced headaches and was given an MRI , which revealed tumors on his brain . He then underwent high dose brain radiation . “ He ended up having about six tumors on his brain , very small ,” Gina explained . By June the prognosis was at its worst , yet Sal maintained his positive outlook . “ I ’ ll do whatever it takes to be here for you guys ,” Sal told his family .
“ Everything he put his body through and he still never had a negative word come out of his mouth ,” Gina said . “ I always said my dad had a sparkle in his eye , and he never lost that .”
After an extremely aggressive chemo treatment in August , Sal continued to work , even though he was losing his ability to speak .
“ He wasn ’ t able to eat due to the treatments , he couldn ’ t swallow , and he never got his voice back ,” Gina said . That same month her grandfather , Sal Sr ., passed away from the same disease , a month after he was diagnosed . “ That was very , very , hard on my dad . From there on out , my dad started to slowly go down physically , but he never gave up ,” Gina said .
In October he was hospitalized for an erratic heartbeat and the family was offered home hospice care . They immediately declined the offer . “ We wanted to take care of him ourselves ,” Gina said , adding they brought her father home where they knew he wanted to be . Even though it was October , Sal requested the family put up the Christmas tree . “ He knew ,” she added .
The day before Sal was hospitalized , Vickie underwent an MRI in an attempt to find out why she was having trouble walking . The test disclosed a rare form of lymphoma in her spine and leg bone . “ She officially got diagnosed with cancer a month before my dad passed away ,” Gina said .
An only child , Gina was always dependent on her parents , but throughout this difficult journey she realized it was her turn to be there for them . “ If my dad could physically fight this disease with such dignity and grace and bravery , there is nothing that should stop me ,” Gina said , adding , her husband has been a Godsend . “ He was amazing with my dad .”
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