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Irondequoit Teen Overcomes Aggressive, Rare Form of Cancer

Thursday, May 29, 2003

David Korones, M.D., will never forget the day he met Stacey Perrotta, an Irondequoit teen who was newly diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer.

“She looked so healthy and beautiful, and it was just impossible to believe she had cancer,” Korones, a pediatric oncologist, says of that October 2001 day. “It was so hard to tell her how intensive the treatment would be, and how it would make her so sick. I'll never forget her tears, nor the way she stopped crying, looked me in the eye, and said, ‘Tell me what I have to do and I’ll do it.’”

Indeed, Stacey triumphed against overwhelming odds. After surgery, as well as intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Stacey, 16, is on the road to recovery. She is one of five 2003 Miracle Kids at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. Her story will be featured during the Golisano Children’s Hospital Telethon on 10NBC May 31 and June 1.

Nearly two years ago, in June 2001, Stacey discovered a bump in her abdomen. At a routine physical, she mentioned it to her physician, James Sando, M.D. He thought the mass was unusual, ordered a battery of tests, and referred Stacey to Golisano Children’s Hospital.

There, she met with George Drugas, M.D., a general pediatric surgeon who trained at Johns Hopkins University. Not knowing whether the mass was cancerous, he removed it in October 2001. The day Stacey was to be discharged home, the pathology reports arrived. “Stacey had a huge tumor encircling her transverse colon,” Drugas recalls. “She and her family were faced with a rare cancer that generally carries a poor prognosis, and through the entire process managed to combat her illness with optimism, humor, and dignity.”

After the surgery, Stacey was referred to the division of hematology/oncology at Golisano Children’s Hospital. “Dr. Korones told me from the get-go, ‘We’re going for the cure,’” Stacey says.

Determining how best to treat the cancer wasn’t easy. “This is an extraordinarily rare tumor, so rare that only a few cases have been reported in the medical literature, and we had never seen anyone here with this disease,” Korones says. “We did what we usually do when we encounter a patient with a rare disease. We called, e-mailed, and faxed anyone anywhere that had experience with this tumor. After talking to people and reviewing what little literature there was, it became clear to us that this was a very aggressive cancer that would be difficult to cure. But we were determined to do just that.

“Throughout months of hospitalizations, fevers, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, you name it, Stacey held her head high,” Korones says.” She didn’t let this ordeal run her life.”

Drugas, the surgeon who removed the mass, credits Stacey’s positive attitude as a factor in her recovery. “During her treatment, Stacey dreamed of going to Hawaii,” he says. “Less than a year after her surgery, she returned from a Make-a-Wish Foundation vacation to Hawaii with a photograph of herself swimming with a dolphin. She gave all of her caregivers a copy of the photo.

Stacey has been an inspiration to many for the manner by which she has triumphed against overwhelming odds.” Stacey, a junior at Eastridge High School in Irondequoit, is enjoying school and a part-time job at Dan’s Crafts and Things on Empire Boulevard. She has a check-up every two months to ensure that her recovery is still on track. “For the most part, she was upbeat and positive,” says her father, Robert Perrotta. “She wanted to beat this. Of course, we wanted that, too. She had confidence in the hospital staff. They answered every question we had. We can’t say enough about everyone at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong.”

Miracle Weekend is always one of the most exciting times of the year for Golisano Children’s Hospital. Proceeds will help fund priority projects, such as a new, 22-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit the hospital intends to build.

Miracle Weekend includes two major events. The Golisano Children’s Hospital Telethon will be broadcast live from the hospital May 31 and June 1 on 10NBC. In addition, Miracle Weekend always includes the Stroll for Strong Kids, to be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 31, at Genesee Valley Park. Children’s activities and registration will begin at 9 a.m. When finished with their Stroll, walkers will be treated to a free lunch provided by Outback Steakhouse. There will be music by Gary the Happy Pirate, and many fun activities for the kids.

Participants are asked to raise money through sponsorship pledges from family members, friends and co-workers. Last year, some 1,000 people took part, raising more than $100,000 for Golisano Children’s Hospital. To register for the Stroll for Strong Kids, or learn more about any Miracle Weekend event, call 585-273-5948.

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