Cesidia Cugini was born on May 26, 1942 in a town called San Donato, outside of Rome, Italy. She was known for her outgoing personality, passion for life, great sense of humor and kindness to everyone she encountered. She loved music, dancing, cooking, traveling and her favorite flower was the calla lily.
The relationship she shared with her husband, Cesidio, was an example of true and unconditional love. A special gift from God. They were married April 29, 1961 and spent 46 wonderful years together.
Cesidia also shared a very special relationship with her daughters, Anita and Carmela, and her grandchildren, Bianca and Jason, whom she loved very deeply.
She was loved by many people because of her unique way of caring for others.
More than 63,000 people are diagnosed with lymphoma each year. Of this number, Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma accounts for more than 19,000 deaths annually.
The occurrence of Lymphoma has doubled over the last 35 years and the primary cause is not certain.
Although many studies are being done, more research is desperately needed.
The Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute of The Ohio State University is involved in cutting edge research.
In February of 2006, Cesidia was diagnosed with cancer. Typically, very healthy and active, she began mentioning that she hadn't been feeling well. Despite her concerns, doctor's could not find anything wrong. Finally, after a number of abnormal blood tests, her family doctor, Dr. John DiPietra, sent her for a Cat scan. They found a spot near her kidney.
Within a week, her condition deteriorated quickly. She began suffering from edema and had difficulty breathing. After being rushed into the hospital, tests showed a mass on her kidney and another large one pressing into her heart. Doctor's couldn't determine if she had kidney cancer, some type of angiosarcoma or lymphoma. Ironically, we were all praying for lymphoma because this was her only chance at life. When the doctor came in and said "Lymphoma", we all jumped for joy. She was diagnosed with, B-Cell Lymphoma. Despite the good news, they were in a race to attack the lymphoma before it shut down her heart.
They began an aggressive form of chemotherapy called R-CHOP. Her first chemo session, in the hospital, was touch and go because of her poor condition. Yet, her will to fight beat the odds and she experienced immediate results. The doctors were amazed and released her to go home where she began a regular regiment of chemotherapy. Despite the side effects of the treatments, she remained positive and demonstrated more strength and courage than we could have ever imagined. After her last treatment in August, she received glowing reports. There was only one small spot remaining and it appeared to be going into remission.
A few weeks later, in September, she woke up one morning and her eye was giving her difficulty. She couldn't focus and found it difficult to keep her balance. We thought the chemo had caused some problems, but found the cancer had spread to her brain. Obviously, this was a shocking and emotional blow, but she kept her faith and continued to fight.
They began administering full brain radiation. After the last treatment, she was given good news. The spots were gone and the outlook was good! Although her eye was left uncorrected, she took a positive approach and sought out options for rehabilitation. She began rebuilding her strength and making plans for the future. After 4-5 weeks, her leg began to feel weak. It seemed as if she had pulled a muscle walking because she had pushed herself so hard.
During a check up with her oncologist, the week prior to Thanksgiving, she mentioned the difficulty she was experiencing and, to our suprise, he immediately sent her to the hospital for tests. Once again, the whirlwind of tests began with Cat scan's, MRI's and a lumbar puncture. We were fearful that the cancer had moved into her central nervous system. If this were true, it would have meant an extremely invasive procedure that could possibily cause her to lose her memory. The fear was unspeakable, yet we continued to pray and keep our faith.
While we were waiting for test results, the doctors had put her on steroids to reduce swelling in hopes of seeing progress. When the Doctor came in the Saturday after Thanksgivng with test results, we were on pins and needles. We can still remember every word he said, "there is no sign of cancer anywhere in your body!" We were absolutely elated and in disbelief. They diagnosed her with a nerve disorder called Transverse Myolitis which could have been caused by all the trauma her body had underwent with chemo and radation. It was the answer to our prayers. We went home and celebrated Thanksgiving Dinner a few days late. It was the best Thanksgiving of our lives!
The following week, the doctors gave her the green light to travel and we took a trip to Boston to attend her sister's funeral mass. While we were there, she began losing strength in her leg and experienced other complications which led us to Mass General Hospital. Having just been told she was cancer free, we were certain everything would work out. We presumed her issues were related to the Transverse Myolitis diagnosis. After a number of tests, the doctor's told us they were suspicious that it was cancer and wanted to admit her. We explained that we had just been given a clean bill of health and they had to be mistaken. Atleast, we all hoped they were mistaken. After all, how could they have been wrong only one week earlier?
Unfortunately, by the time they checked her into the room, she had lost her ability to walk. The test not only showed there was cancer, but the cancer had wrapped itself around her spine. As treatment options were discussed, we were left numb and anxious. One option was the invasive chemo treatment that could have resulted in memory loss and another option was radation. The doctor's decided that full spinal radation was the best option and began treating her. She decided to stay in Boston to complete the treatments and despite the terrible side affects, her will to live remained strong and her faith even stronger. The women we always thought was so fragile, taught us more about strength and courage than we could imagine.
She regained her ability to walk very quickly and after her last treatment, she returned home on Christmas Eve. She celebrated life and welcomed the New Year in by entertaining and making a big meal for friends and family. She again began working towards rehabilitation. A few weeks later, she began having some difficulties and it was at this time she became associated with the James Cancer Hospital.
One thing led to another and by the end of January she was unable to walk, became dehydrated and was experiencing a great deal of pain. We rushed her into the James Cancer Hospital and it was at this time we met, Dr. Pierluigi Porcu, the doctor that preserved what she had always prayed for, her dignity. After a series of tests, they finally found the source of the cancer. It was in her central nervous system, but the procedure was not the standard invasive steps most doctor's take.
They began an unusual, non-invasive, yet aggressive method of treatment with high dose Methotrexate coupled with Rituxan. To everyone's amazement, she began to respond. Her eye corrected itself for the first time since the cancer had affected her brain, she began to move her legs again and we were beginning to make plans to put her in a rehab hospital. We had a new found hope! There was only one problem, because she had full spinal radiation, she wasn't able to reproduce the blood counts necessary in order to receive a second treatment.
I'll never forget it, Wednesday, February 28th we were told, the cancer had spread and there was no more hope. We were able to get her home by Friday and she passed away peacefully, with dignity, in her bed on Saturday, March 3, 2007 at 3:22PM.
Although we are believers that everything in life happens for a reason, it is hard not to wonder "What If."
"What if" they had found the true source of her cancer much earlier, would she be here today? Nothing will bring her back, but perhaps our experience was for a greater purpose....to help others and possibily make a difference in their lives. This is what mom would have wanted because this is what she was about, helping others.
The James Cancer Hospital is involved in cutting edge research that has made, and could continue to make, a difference in the lives of people who suffer from this dreadful disease. Please help us support their research by donating or attending our benefit. If the loss of one life could make the difference in saving other lives, than it is worth it!
Cesidio, Anita and Carmela