Meet Gianna ❤
Gianna Rita was an energetic, playful, and bright young lady. She had an immense joy for life that was reflected by her beautiful smile. Gianna was a born leader. She excelled at everything she set her mind to and achieved lots all with bravery, strength, and humility. She pushed herself, but most importantly, she pushed those who she loved to be their very best selves. Gianna radiated with love, positivity, and life; her passion for life was contagious. And even in the darkest of times, she managed to find hope. She managed to see the true beauty of life. When I think of Gianna, I think of her liveliness. Her ability to transform an entire room with her bright presence. And, her ability to see life as a gift.
From a very young age, Gianna was inquisitive. She was the first to question the norm, even if she knew it would get her in trouble. Her inquisitiveness about the world inspired Gianna to become a changemaker. Her dream was to one day become a lawyer and spark meaningful change. Gianna was full of dreams and had a bright future ahead of her, one filled with the highest of hopes. She had hopes of raising a beautiful family of her own and saw herself traveling the world. She loved working with children and also had a sweet spot for animals. Her two dogs, Paulie and Luca, were at the very center of her heart. She loved her world, her community, and most importantly her family and friends.
On May 26, 2020, during the height of the COVID pandemic, we received news that turned our world into a total nightmare. At the age of 19, our beautiful, vibrant daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer known as Fibrolamellar Carcinoma (FLC), which affects only 1 in 5 million children and young adults. When the doctor came in to tell us the diagnosis and the rarity of FLC, we were devastated to learn that there was very little chance of curing Gianna's cancer completely. Since the cancer was so rare, only a handful of doctors knew of the disease, which left very minimal treatment options.
Our research lead us to Rush University Hospital in Chicago where Gianna would endure a 16 hour surgery removing all of the cancer, as well as countless other surgeries to fix all of the complications she had endured. Gianna was in the intensive care unit for 89 days during the summer of 2020, while also being 800 miles away from home. During these 89 days, Gianna fought hard. She was intubated multiple times and put on a respirator for weeks. She had to learn how to walk and eat again. After the extensive 16 hour surgery, Gianna was in remission and began her necessary cancer treatments. Unfortunately, a mere four months after her surgery, Gianna's cancer returned. She continued aggressive treatment at NY Presbyterian in hopes of shrinking the cancer. While receiving treatment, Gianna attempted to find normalcy. She took a full semesters load of classes at Fordham University and rented an apartment nearby campus.
Gianna fought this disease with an immense bravery that was unimaginable to many. She refused to let her diagnosis control her life. She continued to follow her passions and dreams and enjoyed every ounce of life. Even the most darkest days, Gianna found hope and she truly believed she would get better. She lived a life that wasn't fearful. She didn't fear her diagnosis and she didn't let it control her. A month before her passing, the doctor mentioned hospice. Instead of going into hospice, Gianna planned a trip to Nashville with her friends. She enjoyed her time in Nashville and never showed an ounce of pain. She found solace and hope in traveling, being with friends and family, and loving life to the fullest extent. For a year and a half, Gianna lived her life the way she wanted to. We had many enjoyable times together as a family; we laughed a lot and spent as much time together as possible. We were never closer as a family during those eighteen months together. I will forever be grateful for the time we got to spend together. Gianna taught us so many lessons and showed all of us how to live a full life, even if time doesn't always allow. I am honored to have been chosen to be her mother. My beautiful angel was a bright star that will never be dimmed.
Gianna Rita earned her wings on December 20, 2021 at the age of 21 years old. Eighteen days after she went to Nashville and eighteen months after her diagnosis. Gianna's passion and joy for life is the reason and inspiration for our Non-profit organization, Gianna's Cheers for Hope. We hope to continue to honor Gianna and her legacy through the creation of our organization. We hope to transform our grief and forge a path of hope for children battling pediatric cancer and work to support their families as well. Ultimately, we aim to be changemakers, just as Gianna was herself.