Kernersville, NC -- Vinny DiGerolamo is a fighter. In his seven years, the Kernersville boy has been through more than most people can imagine.
He's currently battling cancer for the second time. Problems started, though, before doctors diagnosed him with cancer when he was four.
"He was born with a severe cleft lip and cleft palate and a heart defect," said Vinny's mom, Sarah. "He was also diagnosed with velophanygeal insufficiency, which was a speech issue due to the cleft."
He underwent several surgeries for the cleft palate, cleft lip, and his heart.
When Vinny was four, he was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma.
"It's a big, long word but basically it means muscle cancer," said Dr. Tom McLean, a pediatric oncologist and hematologist at Brenner Children's Hospital who has worked with Vinny for years.
Thanks to successful treatments, Vinny was cancer-free for nine months. Then in 2009, he relapsed. The cancer showed up in his lung. That is the battle he is still fighting.
"This is his second battle. He's still here a year and half later which was not expected, so we're happy about that," said Sarah.
"There is no cure and the prognosis is not good so we just keep going from chemo to chemo to keep him stable as long as we can," she added.
Vinny hasn't given up through everything and even keeps people laughing, whether at school or the hospital.
"He attracts people like a magnet," said Dr. McLean.
"He is absolutely hilarious," said his teacher, Molli Falgout.
Vinny can't always attend school with the other kids because of germs or he isn't feeling up to it. He often works one-on-one with Falgout to stay on top of what his peers are learning.
"He's taught me about what's the most important thing. In the grand scheme of things, what really does matter the most," said Falgout. "I know that he was placed in my classroom for a reason. If it was for me or for one of my children, I don't know that yet but there's a special reason he's in my class."
Dr. McLean said, "He just makes the most of life regardless of his circumstances and that's a good lesson to remember. Despite whatever hardships or problems I might be having, it could always be worse."
"His strong will, his determination, is the reason why I feel like we've gotten this far," said Vinny's dad, Charlie.
Vinny's family is holding out hope, as they've come to do so well.
"We just keep on going and that's the most important thing to do, is never lose hope and never lose faith," said Charlie.
Sarah said, "He has defied the odds twice now so I just hope he keeps doing that."
When Vinny was cancer-free, his parents started a foundation called Kids of Childhood Cancer. They help families on the pediatric oncology ward at Brenner with individual needs like medical bills, houeshold bills, and meals. Vinny and his family don't see a dime from the foundation.
They're holding a 5K in Kernsersville Saturday morning to raise money for the foundation. To find out how you can participate and/or donate, visiting these links:
Walk 4 Our Kids
Kids Of Childhood Cancer
Visit Vinny's website here
WFMY News 2