A Packer Park resident is attempting to counter a troubling timetable in her battle against cancer.
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.
At age 46, Kim Cirucci has likely spoken millions of words, yet none have given her as much unexpected courage as “I have cancer.” That short sentence, normally a fearful utterance, has guided the former resident of 10th and Carpenter streets for more than two years, with the last month letting her preach positivity to fellow fighters.
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