It all started with a little, seemingly insignificant lump.
As 11-year-old Luca was changing out of his soccer jersey after a match in early March 2023, his father, Roy, quickly noticed something odd on his son’s neck.
“The lump stood out right away, and it was something I knew wasn’t right.”
Roy quickly alerted Luca’s mother, Rosella, and while she couldn’t imagine what would come next, her parental instincts told her to get her son checked out as soon as possible.
“We took him to a walk-in clinic, and they suggested that we get a blood test and an ultrasound. I knew it could take at least one week to get one, and even longer for results, so I decided that I would just take him to CHEO.”
By 12:30 that same day, the word cancer was uttered.
“It was probably the scariest word I’ve ever had to hear,” Rosella says. “I’ve known people who dealt with cancer, but it had never been so close to my family, so it was extremely scary and very emotional.”
“Our life changed,” Roy adds. “I remember perfectly when we received the news. It was just shocking.”
What followed was a handful of tests, including a biopsy, and a short yet excruciating wait that led to a phone call asking the family to come back to CHEO. It was then, on March 14, 2023, that the official diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was confirmed.
The shock and dread the family felt days prior had now become all too real. The results were alarming.
“After all the results came in, it was not only the lump on the neck,” Rosella says. “He had cancer cells in his lungs, his spleen, and his chest!”
“When I heard the diagnosis, I was really scared,” adds Luca. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
That’s where the CHEO staff’s expertise shone through. As soon as the diagnosis was shared with the family, the team of medical professionals wasted no time in letting them know the treatment plan and answering any questions they had.
“From the emergency doctors to the child life specialists, to the oncologist who was wonderful in sharing the news, explaining it and alleviating some of our fears…everyone at CHEO was wonderful,” Rosella says.
Not only were Rosella and Roy impressed with the staff’s level of care, but the speed at which Luca received his treatment only reinforced their appreciation for CHEO.
“We got the diagnosis on a Tuesday afternoon, on Wednesday afternoon they put in his PICC line (a form of intravenous access used to administer chemo and medicine), and on Friday he had his first treatment. The level of dedication and the priority that we were given was amazing.”
However, even with this support from the hospital, the reality remained that Luca was fighting cancer. While he was understandably scared and frustrated at times, his willingness to work to get better, along with the encouragement of friends and family, brought him through the taxing chemotherapy treatments. Wanting to share his journey to help other kids dealing with serious diseases, he decided to start his own YouTube channel, Luca’s Courage, as a platform to share his thoughts, his experiences, and to provide words of encouragement.
Even during his darkest days, Luca published videos whenever he could, including a short and sweet October 7 video in which he announced to the world the most amazing news: he was cancer-free.
But this did not end Luca’s determination to give voice to what young cancer patients live with.
To help CHEO as much as CHEO has helped him, Luca is eager to be an ambassador for the 2024 CN Cycle for CHEO.
“First of all, I like to bike,” he says with a grin. “And I want to raise money for CHEO, too.”
“Participating in anything that CHEO does is an opportunity for him to share his story and to help in any way that he can,” Rosella says. “He wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for CHEO.”
“CHEO was a main character in our journey, and it will still be a part of our lives because Luca wants to get involved, which is amazing and we are really proud of him,” Roy adds.
While Luca can now go back to being a kid, his priority remains helping others, a sign of awe-inspiring maturity from such as young man.
As he likes to say: “Never give up. Keep pushing, and you will win.”
Wise words from a young warrior.