In October 2015, the Iorio family, Melissa, John, and 4-year-old Luke, should have been planning their Halloween celebrations. Instead, some unusual bloodwork sent the family to Boston Children’s Hospital where they learned that Luke had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or ALL. “It was like a truck hit us from behind,” Melissa, Luke’s mom, said. Not only did they have Luke, but also a new baby– Matt.
For three years Luke battled ALL, with daily chemo and monthly lumbar punctures. His treatment involved steroids, which caused weight gain he has struggled to lose. Luke handled treatment well overall, with some setbacks and lingering side effects. “He has some challenges in reading, some self image issues from the weight gain, and various therapies to deal with the after-effects of treatment. They’re manageable,” Melissa says, a phrase that takes on new meaning as a cancer parent.
Now three years off treatment, Luke is 10 and in school. Luke enjoys playing with friends, building legos, music, and magic– something he’s quite accomplished at!
The Iorio family couldn’t have gotten through diagnosis and treatment without the help of supportive family and friends, and organizations like Rett’s Roost. After seeing a poster for the organization at the Jimmy Fund Clinic, Melissa submitted an application to our Shilo Farm retreat in 2017. There, she says, the family made lasting memories and lifelong friends, which they are incredibly grateful for. “Parent circles were the best part of the retreat. It feels so powerful, because it’s something we can talk about together and process. The experience always stays with you, whether just out of treatment or celebrating remission.” She continues, “The groups are so small and intimate, you really do form a fierce bond with these families over just a few days.”
Something the Iorios would like you to know about childhood cancer? “It affects the entire family, but made us– particularly the kids– more empathetic. Families become more aware and sensitive to the fact that everyone goes through hard things.” This month, Luke will have his last appointment after 5 years in remission. He (and the rest of the family) hope to be celebrating hearing the words “cancer-free” for Christmas.