On April 15, 2008, Katie & Tony Mandarino discovered that amazing love that you realize when you become a parent – their son Alex was born. Alex was happy and very active. He was all boy. Mom and Dad kept track of all of his milestones and he seemed to hit them all early. Soon Alex had a new little sister, Bella, who adored Alex and Alex took very good care of her.
Shortly before his 3rd birthday, Alex grew tired easily and began limping. His eyelid drooped and he developed a rash. He started having fevers at the same time every night. Antibiotics didn’t help. Upon an examination, his doctor felt a lump in Alex’s abdomen. Three days later, Alex was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma, and everyone’s life drastically changed.
From that time on, Alex’s “normal” life became a series of pokes and prods, tubes and ports, medicines and radiation – all of which he learned to take in stride. The hospital became his and his family’s second home. They learned about medications and procedures they couldn’t even pronounce a month before. Because he had to spend so much time in the hospital, Alex became an expert in reading, math, Legos, Angry Birds, his iPad and movies including Star Wars, which was his favorite. In spite of all that he was going through, Alex always had an amazing smile and a hearty laugh.
Because the usual protocol for neuroblastoma was not effective, Alex went to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City for an ongoing series of experimental drugs and trials.
Everyone was sure Alex was going to beat this horrible disease. He was a fighter and didn’t like to lose. We were just waiting for the magic words. But instead we heard, “There’s nothing more we can do for Alex”, and it shot through our hearts with a stabbing pain that none of us ever felt before nor ever will stop feeling.
Alex passed away the same way he entered this world 5 short years earlier – in his mother’s arms.
His fight here on earth still lives on.