Galdo to continue fight

A Packer Park resident is attempting to counter a troubling timetable in her battle against cancer. 

By Joseph Myers

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 14 | Posted Sep. 1, 2011

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Joanna Galdo holds a sketch of her and cousin Justin Galdo that they had drawn at a Phillies game. He and brothers Joseph and Louis Galdo have been among her many supporters as she strives to give them plenty more smiles to enjoy.

Photo by Greg Bezanis

Joanna Galdo chose to become a teacher, but fate has rendered her a fighter. 

For the last 12 years, the resident of the 3100 block of South 18th Street has matched her resolve against brain cancer’s advance, enduring four surgeries to combat her affliction’s might. Only 30, the stouthearted figure learned in July that she might succumb to her equally unflinching opponent within the next year. 

Galdo fainted two days after having her wisdom teeth removed in August 1999, with an X-ray computed tomography and an MRI revealing a diffuse astrocytoma, a relatively slow-growing tumor. Her medical team proceeded to remove the benign intruder’s visible portions Sept. 10, ’99, the day before her 19th birthday. An elementary and special educations major at LaSalle University at the time, Galdo aimed to overcome misfortune, much like she had successfully done at age 9 when she lost her mother to breast cancer. 

“I was shocked, devastated and scared,” she said from the home she shares with Loretta Galdo, the grandmother who reared her. “However, I decided I had to fight and to win.”

Her supportive family members and friends will throw her a birthday party Sept. 11 to honor her spunk and to help to defray treatment costs as she continues that battle. The 5 p.m. celebration will include food, entertainment, a raffle, a Chinese auction and bracelet and T-shirt distributions and stretch along 18th Street from Schley to Forrestal streets. Tickets are $30.

“Despite her prognosis and diagnosis, Joanna remains positive that she can beat this horrible disease and is truly one of the strongest people I have ever known,” friend Jasmine MonteCarlo, a resident of the 2800 block of South Warnock Street and one of the event’s many organizers, said. 

Researchers have not identified a specific clinical symptom for the numerous sorts of brain tumors, but Galdo became informed her history of passing out has no relation to her condition. While the origin could start debates, nobody can doubt her disposition to educate. She needed to take only one semester off from college, as she experienced a self-proclaimed period of normalcy. 

“I had always enjoyed working with children and loved to play school,” the graduate of Holy Spirit School, 1845 Hartranft St., and Merion Station’s Merion Mercy Academy said.

Time as a camp counselor at Rizzo Rink, 1101 S. Front St., further prepped her, and she became a midyear first-grade replacement in 2003 at West Philadelphia’s St. Francis deSales School before moving to second grade. The kindergartners at Christopher Columbus Charter School, 1242-46 S. 13th St., witnessed her dedication for a year, but her malady sought the spotlight at the end of their time together in ’07. 

Galdo had her second surgery June 26, ’07, with her third three days later. A former dancer who enjoyed chances to test her agility, she soon needed to deal with ataxia, a condition that lessens her coordination and muscle movements. 

“It imitates ticks and more of a stroke reaction,” she said of ataxia, which has proven so detrimental that the left-hander must rely on her right hand to compensate for her left side’s weakness.

Therapy has allowed her to develop comfort with using her right hand, although she enjoys using her dominant hand for one of her favorite pastimes — cooking.

“Oh, I love to cook!” she said of infatuations with chicken cutlets, fish and pasta. 

She also found driving thrilling, but difficulties with her left eye have made her a permanent passenger, a title she does not mind as long as it involves weekend trips to the Jersey Shore.

“My family and friends spoil me and help me to make my life even more worthwhile,” she said. “The biggest lessons I have learned about myself are that I have seen results because I am determined and have fought hard because I have had the right support.” 

The courageous crusader credits cousins Justin, Joseph and Louis Galdo for helping her to feel strong. Exercises accentuated her will to disappoint her cancer and to reduce her time as the recipient of what she tabbed “excessive attention.” She has humbly accepted whatever aid has become available but admits to feeling a little out of place. 

“I just don’t want to be stared at,” she said with a trace of sadness.

Cancer has taken her from teaching and has compromised her existence, but Galdo seems more enamored with life than many perfectly healthy people do. Opportunities to see the first-place Phillies through her helpers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia delight her, but any moment to give and receive love tops even a grand slam for her. She has needed to train her mind and body to be more steadfast, as brain cancer has not been willing to relax its reputation as a killer. The National Cancer Institute estimates this year will yield 22,310 new cases, with 13,1110 resultant deaths. 

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Comments 1 - 14 of 14
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1. Cousins Jennifer,Erminio, Gianna and RIchie said... on Sep 1, 2011 at 10:17AM

“You are a beautiful and strong young woman. We love you so much and we will always be here for you. Your strength should be an inspiration to everyone.”

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2. Dennis Pellegrino said... on Sep 1, 2011 at 11:34AM

“"Joanna, you are the toughest girl I know and an inspiration to everyone! Don't forget, you are my good luck charm and my co-pilot every New Year's Day so get ready for January 1, 2012 because I will be picking you up bright and early, as usual. Same time, same place!"

"In the mean time, we love you, stay strong and we are looking forward to seeing you at your birthday party!"”

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3. Jessica, Aunt Vinnie, and Uncle Richard Porco said... on Sep 1, 2011 at 11:47AM

“Stay strong Joanna!! We love you so much!!”

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4. King Arthur and The Queen!!!! said... on Sep 1, 2011 at 12:06PM

“Joanna, we are saddened to read this news. We know you have been fighting a long battle! BUT we know you a strong woman and know you will come out this a winner!!!! Keep your faith and your fight going. God Bless you always and also your wonderful family. I know there is plenty of love there.......and one more thing.....30???????!!!! Can't believe that!!!!! Well, just kidding with you and know that we will be there to celebrate your birthday. Luv u girl!”

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5. Anonymous said... on Sep 2, 2011 at 07:53AM

“Although I don't know you, your strength and perseverance touch my heart. I will continue to pray my favorite scriptures and those God puts on my heart for you. Here are just a couple: "Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us." (Ephesians 3:20)
"I am the Lord who heals you." (Exodus 15:26)
"Heal me O Lord and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved."
(Jeremiah 17:14)
Many Blessings and may God grant you peace.”

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6. MatildaP said... on Sep 2, 2011 at 09:14AM

“Thank you, South Philly Review for making us in the community aware of Ms. Galdo's brave struggle. And thanks to Joseph Myers for a sensitively written piece. But mostly, I'd like to thank Ms Joanna Galdo for her courage and generosity in sharing her story in such a public forum. As a teacher, you have devoted so much of your life to the nurturing of others; you are now, due to this virulent invasion of brain cancer, in need of a bit of nurturing
yourself -- and from the sound of the comments from relatives, you're receiving much love and care -- as everyone in your unfortunate circumstance should. You remind us all of how fortunate we are, and also, that there are many people, young and old alike, afflicted with debilitating disease that causes suffering and hardship. That's one good reason for Universal Health care, so that no one sick and struggling with the cost of care should ever have to worry about paying the bills. May God bless you and your loved ones!”

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7. Melissa Valentino said... on Sep 2, 2011 at 09:25AM

“Joanna I love you. Stay strong sweetie. I am always here for you. You are always in my prayers. You will be a winner. You were my sons teacher and one of the best teachers. I have known you for quite a few years. You are one of the most amazing strong and caring person. I love you Jo.”

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8. The Jacoby Family said... on Sep 2, 2011 at 09:14PM

“Joanna you are an inspiration to all. Stay strong and vigilant. You are in our hearts!”

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9. Anonymous said... on Sep 15, 2011 at 10:24AM

“It is never too late to get reacquainted with the other side of your family. I wish you well and hope you overcome this prognosis. Stay positive. Itis unfortunate we never got to know each other.”

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10. Carolyn Whiteman said... on Oct 10, 2011 at 09:48PM


I am a friend of Gabby's and wanted to let you know that I am praying for you. You are an inspiration to us all. Much love,

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11. Delshannon Wimes Del said... on Dec 17, 2012 at 11:39AM

“One of the most beautiful personalities I have encountered.
so full of life.

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12. Anonymous said... on Dec 17, 2012 at 08:40PM

“I had the pleasure of knowing Joanna and all i can say is that she was the strongest person i have ever met. God bless you my sweetie and now you are at peace. I will never forget you. All my love today and always...”

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13. PMOF said... on Dec 20, 2012 at 08:19AM

“This sweet girl with a heart of gold and the courage of a lion has finally gone home to God. May she dance forever with the angels. You will be so missed, my dear.”

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14. Paul Hoffman said... on Dec 20, 2012 at 11:01PM

“I will miss your smile and your amazing way of always thinking of others first ! May God keep you in His care and may you dance forever in Heaven !!”


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