One year ago, 11-year-old Veronica Franco battled a life-threatening tumor and underwent surgery at Stony Brook University Hospital.
Now, thanks to succesfully surgery, the Rocky Point Middle School student was not only able to return to school, but recently performed with the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (MYO) children’s chorus at Carnegie Hall on March 16.
Franco underwent a grueling 20-hour operation to remove a life-threatening tumor and reconstruct her pelvis a year ago and she thanks the surgery team, led by orthopaedic oncologist Dr. Fazel Khan, for not only helping save her life but for also setting her on a path to recovery.
It began in September of 2011 when Veronica had just entered the fifth grade; she was suffering from constant pains in her left hip and leg. Her family brought her to Dr. James Barsi, an orthopaedic surgeon at Stony Brook Medicine, who ordered a series of imaging tests that revealed a mass on Veronica’s left pelvis. Following a biopsy by Dr. Khan, it was determined that Veronica had Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare and dangerous form of bone cancer that usually affects children and adolescents.
She began chemo which helped reduce the size of the tumor, but not enough. The tumor’s location next to the hip joint and the dimension of the lesion were issues as the slightest misstep could have led to her losing the ability to walk or to the cancer spreading.
With this in mind, the doctors presented Veronica and her family with two options: radiation therapy to continue shrinking the tumor or surgery to remove the cancer. The decision was made in late February 2012 to perform the surgery.
“This surgery was not only a key step for Veronica to hopefully become disease free, it spared her potentially harmful radiation to the pelvis and allowed her to maintain mobility,” said Dr. Parker.
After the surgery, Veronica had several rounds of chemotherapy and after completing the treatment in October 2012 she was finally able to return to school after missing an entire year.
While Veronica felt much better, she needed a wheelchair to get around. She continued to show progress into 2013, and one year after her surgery, her doctors say she shows no evidence of disease. She now walks and uses a rolling walker to stabilize her gait and posture.
Her mother, Joanna Franco, said her daughter is not only regaining her health and strength but is excelling in all aspects of school. She cited that Stony Brook’s School Re-Entry and Intervention Program staff recognized how important school and music is to Veronica and helped her keep up with schoolwork and eased her return to the classroom.
“Veronica’s doctors have been incredible too, and she thinks the world of them,” Franco said. “They are pleased at how far she has come and impressed with her new accomplishments in school, the latest of which is making the principal’s list with a 98 average.”