When Tony Salerno was diagnosed with Stage 4 High Risk Neuroblastoma at 2-years-old, the national treatment success rate was 30 percent.
Seven years later, young Tony is past his diagnoses, with no evidence of disease.
“Due to the very nature of some of his treatment protocol, Tony is at a higher risk than the average child for developing a secondary cancer. We were told that the risk of developing a secondary cancer is now equal to the risk of the initial cancer returning,” Tony’s parents Karen and Tony Salerno said.
While monitoring his health, young Tony works as an ambassador for Alex’s Lemonade Stand and is currently participating in Northwestern Mutual’s “Heroes for a Cure” program to raise awareness for the lack of funding in pediatric cancer research.
“I think research can help kids like me by finding new treatments and cures for cancer. And by doing that, kids can live a happy, healthy life,” Tony said.
Northwestern Mutual’s Facebook campaign allows Facebook fans to share Ton’y story, a short video detailing the need for pediatric cancer research. For every share, Northwestern Mutual will donate $2 to the cause, partnered with Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
According to a news release from Northwestern Mutual, “New survey findings show that more than 90 percent of childhood cancer researchers feel lack of research funds is the number one obstacle to finding better treatments and cures for childhood cancer, which is the leading cause of death by disease in children 15 and under in the U.S.”
Tony was treated at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia by Dr. Mike Hogarty, who also appears in the fundraising video.
“His primary oncologist became our source of strength, knowledge, information and more. He was part doctor, part teacher, part therapist and part friend. We drew as much strength from him as he did from Tony.”
Tony’s treatments may have rid him of cancer, but the long term side effects mean Tony still visits the Children’s Hospital often.
Mr. and Mrs. Salerno said Tony is followed by seven different departments, including oncology, endocrinology, nephrology, cardiology, ophthalmology and audiology. During treatment, one of Tony’s kidneys shut down leaving him with kidney disease and hypertension and left him with hearing loss; and radiation caused Tony to develop cataracts in both eyes.
Recently, Tony developed gallstones and kidney stones as well.
“Luckily he is asymptomatic but it's just one more reminder that our treatment journey is far from over,” Mr. and Mrs. Salerno said.
Through all of the hospital visits, the Salerno’s said they witnessed other families experiencing the same things, all justifiably scared. Through it all, the family was surrounded by loved ones.
“My daughter was born the same week that Tony was diagnosed. We had family that stepped in to help take care of her when we were at the hospital with Tony.”
Today, when Tony isn’t working for the cause, he enjoys most things a typical 10-year-old would enjoy. He loves gym, art and computer lab at Indian Hill School. He’s a black belt in karate and enjoys being a Cub Scout.
Unlike most people his age, Tony loves public speaking, and sharing his story to benefit Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
“We are so very proud of Tony for all he has accomplished in his young life. We are inspired by him everyday and if getting his story out there inspires more people, then we are very happy to participate in as many campaigns as we can!”
To help Tony raise money for pediatric cancer, visit the Northwestern Mutual Heroes for a Cure Facebook page and share the video. Every share means $2 for Alex’s Lemonade Stand and pediatric cancer research.