When Bella was seven years old her parents noticed she was pale, always tired and cold.
When they took Bella to the pediatrician they found out she was anemic. They didn’t think much of it since Mrs. Rocco was anemic. Some adjustments were made to Bella’s diet, gave her iron pills, some additional supplements and thought that would be the end of it.
Thanks to an excellent pediatrician who decided to perform additional tests. The results of the test determined there were more to it and sent the Rocco’s to a Gastrointestinal specialist located at Morristown Hospital.
More tests were performed and the results were negative. Very long story short, thanks to the persistence of the Gastrointestinal doctor, she found that Bella had a tumor in her stomach.
What Bella has is called pediatric GIST (Gastro intestinal stromal tumor). This is very rare among children. The good news is they were able to remove it through surgery and she has never needed chemo or radiation.
The bad news is they told us the chances of it coming back were extremely high. Sure enough, less than two years later they found another tumor. This time, she showed no symptoms. They found the tumor because they were monitoring her every few months with MRIs and knew what to look for. This time the tumor was behind her stomach near her spine so they wanted to get it out before it caused any problems.
Another major surgery, but again thank God no chemo or radiation. Mrs. Rocco remembers in all honestly that despite the fact that she had moments of thinking “Why my kid?” and “How can this be any worse?” the truth is when you get off the elevator on the pediatric floor of a cancer hospital (and they’ve been to many at this point) reality smacks you in the face, you count your blessings and realize this is nothing compared to what other families are going through.
They have realized that they were so lucky that this hasn’t been worse. It is manageable. They are truly grateful for that. You would never know what Bella has been through. Bella is so full of life, strong, otherwise healthy and fearless!
Bella plays softball, field hockey, she’s a Parsippany cheerleader, goes to hip hop dance classes, amongst other events. Mrs. Rocco says, “she is my wild child and drives me crazy on a daily basis. One day my husband came home from work and asked as he usually does, how were the kids? It happened to be one of those days that Bella was not listening, misbehaving. I don’t remember exactly what so I said to him Bella drove me nuts today and he looked at me and said thank God she drove you nuts today and I smiled and said yes thank God she drove me nuts today.”
Bella heard about the Valerie Fund’s 5k walk/run when she was at the Valerie Fund in Morristown getting routine blood work shortly after her initial diagnosis.
She thought it would be a great thing to do, to give back to a cause that only months before they never knew existed, but now are so grateful for.
There were maybe ten of us that walked in Bella’s Bunch the first year.
The following year a few more. The third year Bella said she wanted to try to have the biggest team, so the Rocco’s sent out more emails — to family and friends. They had absolutely no idea what it would turn into.
Well, that year (2011) Bella’s Bunch was 100 members strong and that was just the people who participated. Many more donated online. Bella’s bunch has continued to take on a life of its own.
Last year (2012) they had 175 people on her team and donations continued even after the event. Bella’s Bunch raised over $9, 000 for The Valerie Fund! It really isn’t about Bella even though this is how it all started. It is about giving to a cause that helps families get through the worst of times. As I put on Bella’s team page, it has allowed our family to turn our pain into purpose and pay it forward. As Bella is getting a older you can see that she is truly starting to understand the importance of giving back. June 15, 2013 will be Bella’s 5th year participating in the 5K walk/run. People have been thanking The Rocco’s for inviting them to join Bella’s Bunch because once you attend you realize what a wonderful cause it is. Click here to watch a You Tube video of the event which was on CBS TV News.
Bella’s twitter is @bellasbunch4tvf and very shortly Bella will have her own website, www.bellasbunch.com.
Anyone that wants to join Bella’s team for the 2013 Walk, click here. Last year Bella’s teacher got the school involved, and one of the teachers at Central Middle School, where she wasn’t even attending yet got Central students and teachers involved.
Additional information about the Valerie Fund can be found on their website www.thevaleriefund.org. The Valerie Fund was started by a couple that lost their daughter, Valerie, to cancer. Their goal was to have centers closer to home so that families would not have to travel far distances for treatment. They have created a support system for the kids and families and created an environment that helps make dealing with a sick child a little bit easier. They treat children with cancer and blood disorders.
As soon as Bella’s new website is finalized, you will be able to find a link to become part of “Bella’s Bunch.”