Although Angelo Dabbiero still has many months of treatment left, he and his family received happy news just in time for the holidays. Angelo, age 14, was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive cancer of the muscle fibers. The cancer was classified as stage four because it was located in severl different areas at the time of diagnosis. Two weeks ago, CT scans showed all of the tumors but one had “melted away.” A tumor near the heart and behind the rib cage that would have meant very complicated surgery is completely gone, as are the spots on his liver and lungs. The remaining tumor is in tissue, but has shrunk to almost nothing.
“It was near perfect resolution,” said Frank Dabbiero, Angelo’s father. “The doctors said it was the best possible news.” Angelo’s mom credits his recent good test results to his indomitable spirit in addition to a terrific team of doctors. “He has just had the best attitude the whole time.”
Just the week before Christmas Angelo developed a fever. For a cancer patient, even a cold can be devastating. Frank Dabbiero rushed Angelo to Denver where he was hospitalized and given intravenous antibiotics and then hospitalized for several days. “Everyone there said they were surprised he hadn’t been there sooner,” said mom, Sheri Dabbiero. “He is a really strong kid.” Dad agrees. “His attitude has always been: do what you gotta’ do — let’s get it over with. He has never once complained or had a down day.”
Angelo’s immune system will remain vulnerable until the cancer treatment is finished. “It’s deceiving,” said Frank Dabbiero. “He may look fine, but people can’t see that his white blood cell count is way low. If they have even a sniffle, they should probably stay away until well.”
Angelo will continue to receive chemotherapy treatments until the fall of 2009. In January, he will begin receiving radiation therapy five days a week, in concert with the chemo. Treatment can’t stop until every cancerous cell is killed. Once the cancer treatments are finished, he still faces surgery to remove his thyroid. Doctors have discovered a rare genetic mutation that can lead to thyroid cancer, and the only treatment is complete removal.
Despite all that Angelo has been through, and the tough road ahead, he remains philosophical about his experience. “I’m feeling really good right now,” he said. “It was weird—when I got the news about the tumors I didn’t really feel anything, just, okay. That’s good. I just try to take it as it comes.”
Community support for the family continues. In January, Ivy Stockwell will donate proceeds from a silent auction and Nikko Landeros and Tyler Carron, two young men for whom the community rallied in 2006 after a devastating car accident, will holding their second annual walk-a-thon for Angelo. It is estimated that a family dealing with an acute illness incurs upwards of $2,500 additional living expenses per month. Bank of the West is also maintaining a fund for Angelo.
“I continue to be humbled by the support that the Berthoud community has shown for us,” said Dabbiero. Angelo seconds this. “There are only two good things that have come from my cancer,” said Angelo. “I realized who my real friends were and I got to see how nice people in Berthoud are, even if they never met me.”