MEXICO — Tiffany Bonacquisti and her son Leiland are in this together.
The Mexico mother and son are both battling cancer — for him, leukemia; for her, soft tissue sarcoma that migrated to her lung — and next month will host an event to “forget about all the bad things.”
The May 11 “Family Fund Day” at Mexico’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 369 will support Bonacquisti and her son, who received their diagnoses less than a year apart.
“I wanted to have a fun day where people could forget about all the bad things that are happening right now and it turned out to be this bigger fundraiser,” Bonacquisti on Wednesday told The Palladium-Times.
A single mother working as a medical assistant, lab technician, phlebotomist and home decorator, Bonacquisti said she had to cut down on her working hours and eventually withdrew from work altogether when 4-year-old son Leiland, now 5, was diagnosed with leukemia in March of 2018.
Bonacquisti said Leiland was resilient while doctors treated his leukemia, always wearing a “smile on his face.”
“Children are amazing,” Bonacquisti said. “Leiland was very, very sick for the first 60 days, having to relearn how to walk from laying in bed all day, and it just never brought him down.”
As Leiland’s illness showed signs of remission and his hospital visits became frequent, Bonacquisti was able to return to work part time.
“They dwindled it down from once a week to once a month,” she said of Leiland’s hospital visits. “Leukemia treatment is much longer to ensure his leukemia doesn’t come back. [His treatment] will last until July of 2021.”
Her challenges were compounded when she received her own life-altering diagnosis in December: Stage 4 round cell soft tissue sarcoma in her right thigh, which metastasized into her left lung.
“It was shocking,” Bonacquisti said about the moment when doctors told her she had cancer. “I didn’t even have a reaction. I didn’t know how to react, since my son was in remission.”
Bonacqusti said her symptoms started with a mysterious femur pain that showed no bruise or lump. However, she said as a mother preoccupied with her son’s remission, “you just go through life and ignore it.”
But when physical trauma from a tattoo (naturally, of Leiland) on her leg exacerbated the pain, she couldn’t ignore it any longer. Doctors soon discovered it was metastasized Stage 4 sarcoma, a form of cancer that arises from transformed cells in connective tissue.
Bonacquisti, who said her son “saved her life,” said she is currently in her third week of a five-week daily chemotherapy regiment. She had to spend an extra week in the hospital because doctors found low levels of white blood cells resulting in a weakened immune system.
Although Stage 4 sarcoma is rarely curable, the American Cancer Society says it’s at its most treatable by removing the main tumor through surgery and reducing metastasis with chemotherapy when it has spread only to the lungs.
While in the hospital undergoing treatment, Bonacquisti is unable to work and her finances are as “dire as her health,” according to the GoFundMe campaign webpage started by Bonacquisti’s mother shortly after she received her diagnosis.
“Funds raised through this GoFundMe campaign will be used to assist Tiffany with her mounting medical bills and related expenses,” according to the GoFundMe campaign page. “Please consider giving generously to this kind and loving woman striving to beat down cancer as it strikes at the heart of her family once again.”
In the past three months, donations of $5, $50 and $100 have rolled in, and as of print time Wednesday, the fundraising campaign raised $2,700 — slightly more than one-tenth of Bonacquisti’s $25,000 goal.
The family’s GoFundMe webpage can be accessed at https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-tiffany-bonacquisti
Tickets for the May 11 Family Fun Day, which includds games, food, raffle sales and a bounce float, cost $10 at the door, and presale tickets are $8. All proceeds help pay for Bonacquisti’s and her son’s medical bills.