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My View: Mom's cancer struggle fortifies our family bonds

By Alexandra DiLeo

I come from a large, loud mouthed, drama-filled, intimidating Sicilian family. That’s the biggest piece of background that I have. My mom’s parents were born and raised in Caltanissetta, Sicily, and my dad’s parents are descendants of the same town as well.

You can imagine that the food we have is spectacular, and the celebrations that we have are loud and grand. We often speak with our hands, cry at the most ridiculous phrases and make fun of each other any chance that we get.

This being said, I want you to envision taking a couple of steps into Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center with a big family like this. Those first few somber, unmotivating steps are because you have just received life-changing news and you are going to visit a loved one on a Tuesday afternoon.

What do you see? When I reach the lobby, I see a coffee shop on my right, dozens of people sitting on the couches in the center, and someone who graciously took the time to play some music on their guitar to my left. Slowly as you walk closer and closer to the elevators, you are still somber, but your spirits start to lift within seconds. Now imagine how the patients feel.

The smiles. The tears. The sadness. All of the emotions that these patients cannot even begin to express. Everything that comes along with this incurable, mad disease. It’s prevalent for days, months, years; and we don’t know how to get rid it. In our family we cure it by being there for the people who we love.

In my case, my mom was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on May 30. This is a disease that can tend to spread rapidly, dangerously, and can panic the minds of patients and their loved ones.

Alexandra DiLeo

Since that incredibly confusing day in May I have been in and out of Roswell Park because I love my mother with no boundaries. I will admit, there have been a handful of days where I could not bring myself to go and see her, because the sadness consumed my whole being. I had to occupy myself with other activities to make myself feel better.

Countless overnight stays, Netflix shows, picking my neck up from the unbearable chair that rolls into a cot to make sure she is OK. That one look from her is a huge clarification that she is still my warrior, and the person I look up to most in this world.

I am one of four children, but I am her eldest daughter, and I have to be all there. It is my permanent job to be the rock for most people including my youngest sister, who is 11.

Within the past couple of months I have never thought I would have had the job to be a mother figure. Events as big as first days of school and first days on the job aren’t “big” anymore. What is more important is the love of those close to you, because the little worries do not matter in the present of what is really going on. What is in front of you is the most important.

There are hundreds, thousands, millions of people in this world who are going through the same situation. What keeps my family going is the fact that we have an undying love and support for one another. We would give anything and everything to see each other rise above the horrid situations that we are put through.

My mom can rise above anything in this world. That is what keeps our family strong.

Alexandra DiLeo, of Williamsville, pushes through a range of emotions while visiting her mom at Roswell Park Comprehensive Care Center.

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