By Alex Lippa
After a completely healthy pregnancy and birth two years ago, Melanie Famino of Haverhill was excited to have two children — daughters Danielle and newborn Megan.
But just nine months later, Famino discovered something wasn't right with Megan.
"I noticed she was just acting different," Famino said. "Something was wrong."
She took Megan to Children's Hospital in Boston, where doctors found that Megan had a tumor. Doctors removed the tumor and Megan was diagnosed with adrenocortical carcinoma, a rare cancer of the adrenal glands. Doctors told the family that 10 years ago children with this condition usually died from the disease.
"It was extremely scary," Famino said. "I didn't know it was going to happen. None of us have ever thought that it would happen to us."
After the tumor was removed, Megan began many rounds of intense chemotherapy. Starting in March of last year, she was in and out of the hospital repeatedly for nine months, undergoing treatment. Occasionally she would get sick from the chemotherapy and would have to spend up to three weeks in the hospital's intensive care unit. Famino would also have to administer in-home chemotherapy to Megan, sometimes through a feeding tube.
In February, Megan was declared cancer free and now her family is looking to give back to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which helped them through this tough time.
Megan was selected to be a pedal partner of the 33rd annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge bike-a-thon. Pedal partners are teamed up with cyclists and help inspire them as they bike 190 miles across the state. The Pan Mass Challenge raises money annually through the Jimmy Fund for adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research at Dana-Farber.
Megan will also be honored at Fenway Park as part of a special celebration on May 19 during the PMC Pedal Partner program kick-off party. The Faminos learned about this program during one of Megan's regular checkups at the Jimmy Fund. Pedal Partners and their families will meet the cyclists who will ride in their honor while enjoying games, activities and brunch during an all-day celebration at Fenway.
"I wasn't sure I wanted to do this at first," Famino said. "I thought I wanted to just put this all behind us. But then I decided that I wanted to show how good Dana-Farber is and what they can do."
Megan is trying to catch up on things she missed while she was fighting cancer. She can crawl, but is unable to walk quite yet. She takes physical and speech therapy and is working to regain her hearing, which she partially lost during the chemotherapy.
"She is basically delayed in her growth," Famino said. "She's a year behind because of all the treatments."
Looking back on the lengthy treatment process, Famino recalled how scary it was, but marvelled at just how strong her daughter is.
"I think she's really amazing," Famino said. "From just being so sick, she was able to bounce back pretty quick and is very close to just being a normal two and a half year old."
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