Cancer is without a doubt one of the scariest and most tragic diagnoses a person can receive. Stage-4, or metastatic cancer, is the scariest of all. This is what happened to Anthony Di Laura in September of 2020. It was made worse by the fact that he and his wife, Jackie Cucullo-Di Laura, were expecting their first child in just four months. After a course of miracles – including becoming pregnant with their second child – the Di Laura’s now need help.
The Rare Surgery That Might Save A Man With Stage-4 Cancer
In September 2020 in the middle of the COVID19 pandemic, Anthony and Jackie were excitedly awaiting their first child, who would arrive in just four months’ time. That is when their joy was brought to a crashing halt. Doctors diagnosed Anthony with stage-4 cancer. Specifically, they diagnosed him with pseudomyxoma peritonei, a rare cancer that begins in the appendix. (1)
About to have their first baby, the doctors suggested that Anthony freeze his sperm in case he and Jackie wanted to have another baby in the future. This is because Anthony needed radical surgery followed by several rounds of intense chemotherapy. Likely, the doctors said, he would be sterile afterward. Looking at the astronomical costs of freezing and storing the sperm, however, the couple opted not to. With that, the continued to prepare for the arrival of their son while also gearing up to battle Anthony’s cancer.
What Is Pseudomyxoma Peritonei?
As already mentioned, pseudomyxoma peritonei is a rare form of cancer that usually begins in the appendix. It begins as a small growth called a polyp. It eventually spreads through the wall of the appendix to the cavity lining of the stomach. The cancerous cells produce a mucus that collects in the abdomen as a jelly-like fluid. (2)
Pseudomyxoma peritonei develops extremely slowly. It can be years before you have any symptoms. Because of this, by the time of diagnosis, it has usually spread beyond the appendix. Doctors don’t know what causes it, but they do know it is more common in women than in men. Symptoms include:
- abdominal or pelvic pain
- not being able to become pregnant
- abdominal swelling and bloating
- changes in bowel habits
- hernia (a bulge in the tummy wall or groin)
- loss of appetite
- feeling of fullness
It is difficult to diagnose and is usually done using an operation to look inside the stomach called a laparotomy. Treatments include surgery and chemotherapy.
Read: Cancer Completely Disappears In All Patients During Experimental Drug Trial
Determined Not to Miss a Thing
At 35 years old, Anthony had his appendix and stomach removed. He then underwent several months of chemotherapy treatments. Despite all of the side effects and fatigue, he was able to attend the birth of their son, JP.
“We knew the future was going to be tough, but we were delighted to be a family of three,” Jackie said.
Determined to be a good father, Anthony battled the exhaustion from his treatments to help with the baby. This included staying up at night to feed and change JP.
Unfortunately, the treatments didn’t work and doctors informed them that Anthony’s cancer had become worse. With a now seven-month-old baby, they traveled around the country looking for doctors who could help them. Surgeon after surgeon opened him up, only to tell them that the cancer had “hardened like cement” on his stomach and that it was inoperable.
That’s when the couple was given yet another reason to continue fighting: Jackie became pregnant with their second child. They were in complete shock, happy, and overwhelmed at the same time.
“My doctor said the chances of this happening were slim to none… It was 100% a miracle, because there was no way I could have expected it,” Jackie said. “It was a very different feeling from when I found out I was pregnant with my son. We already knew we’d have to sell our home because we couldn’t pay the bills. I thought, ‘How am I going to bring in our one salary, take care of my husband, and raise two children?'”
Even with Stage-4 Cancer He’s Not Giving Up Hope
Doctors began telling them that they should film videos and make photo albums for their children to remember their dad. They began talking to them about palliative care because Anthony wouldn’t be around to see his children grow up. The doctors gave him weeks to a few months to live, at most. Anthony and Jackie, however, refused to accept their answer.
Anthony was too sick to attend the birth of their daughter, but they are using her birth as a way to bolster his courage to keep fighting. Their hopes are now hinging on a ground-breaking multi-organ transplant surgery. This surgery has only ever been done once before by Dr. Anil Vaidya in Cleveland, Ohio. Performed successfully in September 2021 on a man from the UK who had been given just six months to live, the couple is hoping for the same result. The surgery involves replacing Anthony’s spleen, stomach, small and large intestine, colon, and gallbladder. (3)
They Need Your Help
The Di Laura’s needs help. They have filed several appeals with their insurance company which has refused to cover the surgery. Now living on only Jackie’s teacher salary, they have had to sell their home and are unable to afford Anthony’s life-saving surgery on their own. Family members have started a GoFundMe page to help them cover some of the costs. So far, they have raised over $205,000 of their $250,000 goal. (4)
“The Cleveland Clinic has given Anthony a newfound desire for life,” Jackie said. “He has become invested through the hopefulness and positive attitude of the team, and I saw that spark back in him.”
If you are able and want to, you can contribute to helping these two young babies grow up knowing their father in person, not just through photos and videos.
Keep Reading: Doctor Determines Perfect Prescriptions For Stage 4 Cancer: With Functional Profiling, His Results Are ‘Stunning’
- “A man with stage-4 cancer was told he wouldn’t live to see his kids grow up. A rare surgery might give him a chance..” Insider. Jane Ridley. July 12, 2022.
- “About pseudomyxoma peritonei.” Cancer Research UK
- “First-of-its-kind multiorgan transplant saves man with rare cancer given 6 months to live.” Today. Caroline Kee. July 4, 2022.
- “Help Anthony Di Laura and his family.” Go Fund Me