The Gerbino family thought they were in the clear.
Father Matt was finishing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The family thought their troubles were over.
But then came another blow.
This past winter, son Nicholas, 15, a freshman at Liverpool High School, discovered a bulge on his right arm.
“At first we didn’t think anything of it,” said mom Lisa Gerbino. “We noticed it around Thanksgiving, but we thought it would go away.”
When the bump hadn’t gone away by Christmas, Lisa booked an appointment with Nicholas’ pediatrician. The doctor ordered an immediate MRI, which confirmed his worst fears-and the family’s: it was cancer.
Nicholas was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer most often found in children. Ewing’s sarcoma can occur in any bone, but is most often found in the extremities and can involve muscle and the soft tissues around the tumor site. Ewing’s sarcoma accounts for about 2 to 3 percent of childhood cancers. About 250 children and adolescents are diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma each year in the US. It is the second most common
malignant bone tumor in children and adolescents.
Ewing’s sarcoma most often occurs in children between the ages of 10 and 20.
Nicholas began treatment immediately at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, one of the top cancer treatment facilities in the country. It’s also where Matt Gerbino received treatment; in fact, Nicholas was referred to the same surgeon who helped his dad, something that reassured his parents.
“He’s one of the most well-known surgical experts in the country,” Lisa said.
It also reassures Nicholas about his prognosis.
“It helps Nick to see that there’s a success story in the family,” Lisa said. “That’s helped a lot.”
While his parents know Nicholas is in good hands, they still lament what he’s had to give up. A star athlete, Nicholas has had to stop playing lacrosse, most likely for good, and basketball, at least temporarily.
“I can say without any prejudice that he’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen,” Lisa said. “He’s on the freshman basketball team at Liverpool and he was among their top scorers.”
In addition to being a stellar sportsman, Nicholas is a good student, a good friend and a good kid, his mother said.
“People gravitate to him,” she said. “He has a lot of friends.”
Even old teachers have come out of the woodwork to help Nicholas and his family. Micah Shippee, a social studies teacher at Liverpool Middle School who had Nicholas last year, organized a basketball-themed fundraiser at the school. People were asked to donate money in exchange for a paper basketball on which their names were printed. The basketballs were then displayed at the school. Shippee played an important role in the boy’s life; his mother said Shippee has inspired Nicholas to pursue a career as a history teacher.
And Shippee isn’t the only one looking to help the family.
With Matt still recovering and Nicholas needing care, coupled with frequent trips to New York City for his treatment, Lisa has not been able to work. Thus the family has little choice but to watch their expenses pile up.
Fortunately, Nicholas has a lot of friends, and they’re not about to let his family falter.
In order to help, friends are organizing the Nick Gerbino Family Benefit, scheduled to take place from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday May 17 at the Cicero American Legion on Route 31. The event will feature food, raffles, door prizes and more. For more information, contact Lori Czachowski at email@example.com.
Even his fellow freshmen at LHS are getting in on the act. Lisa Gerbino said they’ve organized hat days, sold bracelets with Nick’s initials and his basketball jersey number (22) and conducted other fundraisers to help the family.
“It shows you that everybody can help, no matter how small a gesture,” Lisa said. “It’s very humbling being in a cancer ward. People just need help — the Ronald McDonald House [where the family stays when Nicholas is receiving treatment] needs volunteers. Families need people to help them out. Nothing is too little or too much. People just need help.”
Lisa said her son is humbled by the attention from people who want to help him in his time of need.
“Nick is the kind of kid who doesn’t want to stand out, unless it’s on the court,” she said. “But he’s very touched by all of this, and so are we.”
Gerbino Family Benefit
When: 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday May 17
Where: Cicero American Legion, 5755 Legionnaire Drive, Cicero (off Route 31)
Cost: $10 per person; 7 and under free
The event will include basket raffles, a 50/50 raffle, food, games, prizes, a DJ and more.
For more information about how you can help, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit gerbinobenefit.com. You can also send donations to Matt and Lisa Gerbino, c/o Lori Czachowski, 4291 Amblewood Lane, Clay, NY 13041.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.