Just days after Joseph Michael’s twenty-first birthday, on March 14, 2012, he was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive, and unidentifiable cancer during an emergency appendectomy. The surgeon said his abdominal cavity was full of cancer. Biopsies were taken and sent to the best cancer treatment centers in the country - MD Anderson, Sloan Kettering, Roswell Park, UPMC , and the Mayo Clinic. None of them were certain of the cancer type, but the tumor held a genetic mutation commonly found in a rare type of sarcoma known as DSRCT - a pediatric cancer more commonly found in males. Currently, no cure exists for DSRCT. Treatment consists of surgical intervention, radiation, and aggressive chemotherapy to battle the disease’s progression.
Joseph fought hard in order to help others, if not himself. After being referred to UPMC by Sloan Kettering, he endured three major surgeries and six aggressive chemo treatments using four of the most potent chemo drugs at UPMC, followed by another chemo treatment using three more aggressive drugs at MD Anderson. His final stand involved targeted therapy drugs currently being used in clinical trials.
In July of 2013, Joseph was told his body was too weak to continue treatments. He returned home to Rome, NY under Hospice. On August 1, 2013, Joseph Michael passed away peacefully at home with his family by his side. He was twenty-two years old and his battle had lasted sixteen months.
Joseph was always thinking of others. Before his passing, he asked us to form a charity to help others facing cancer. He knew, as we did, how hard cancer can be on patients and their loved ones. Our Foundation was launched in Joseph’s memory in November of 2014.