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My View: Answering the bell after a bout with cancer

By Alexandra DiLeo

In a previous My View column in 2019, I explained my mother’s residency at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center after she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Life is finally reaching its normal state again. Appointments are quickly dwindling down to two or three a week.

Our haven at Roswell Park seems like a distant memory. The countless months, days and hours of lying in a hospital bed and finding something on the television channel to watch all day and night. This seems as if it was many lifetimes ago.

After we received the news that my mom was cancer-free, the next obstacle that she needed to conquer was the bone marrow transplant.

With this came a whole new set of worries. In this process, we needed a perfect match and we were lucky enough that my brother, Marc, was compatible.

After the transplant, we were back to our residency at Roswell Park. For the next four to six weeks, we prayed that the complications were minimal and that she would be home for the holidays.

Alexandra DiLeo.

After much praying and hoping, we were able to take her home after 2 1/2 weeks. It was difficult to be so careful at home with visitors, administering medications and constant trips back to Roswell in the cold weather.

With the process of coming home, my mom had to be secluded for 100 days, which meant we could not have visitors other than immediate family.

This Christmas meant more to us than any holiday before. The holidays were not about parties, gifts or other materialistic things. Christmas was about our family coming together and appreciating each other and life itself.

Our most precious gift was the hope that my mom would be able to venture back to Roswell and ring their famous bell. The bell is a significant moment that signals the end of treatment and the beginning of a life free of cancer.

In early February, my mother, Rosemary DiLeo, will get her chance to ring the bell at Roswell Park that indicates she is currently living without cancer. She is free to continue her life with her beautiful and supportive family.

She will be surrounded by all 30 of her immediate family members wearing their DiLeoStrong/Team Ro T-shirts that we had customized to support her during this journey.

At that moment, she will be free from sadness, anger and worry all bundled into one. She can finally let go and say goodbye to chemotherapy treatments, goodbye to hospital beds, and goodbye to cancer.

When that bell rings, it will be an emotional time for many reasons. While tears of joy trickle down our faces, this moment will be celebrated.

All of the prayers, the kind words, and meals sent from our family and friends have meant the world to my family.

This is it! The bell rings, and suddenly life is back to normal. Cancer, you are just a memory. You will never be forgotten, but you will surely not be missed.

I have never been prouder to call this woman my mother. She is a warrior, a fighter and an inspiration. Do you know how long I have been waiting to hug my mom? Too long! This time, I am never letting go.

Alexandra DiLeo, of Williamsville, has been inspired by her mom’s cancer fight.

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