11-Year-Old Cancer Patient Rocco on the Road to Recovery

Rocco Pisani is on his way to recovery while wearing the clothes of his favorite hockey team. (Photo: Courtesy of Jamie Pisani)

WIDE CHANNEL – Rocco Pisani hits home runs on and off the field.

“I still make the most of every moment I have with family and friends,” Rocco said in early May.

Related: 11-Year-Old Finds Strength Through Acts Of Kindness As He Goes Through Cancer Remission

Last October, The Tablet shared the story of Rocco, an 11-year-old diagnosed with leukemia who celebrated his birthday at Cohen Children’s Medical Center while undergoing intensive chemotherapy.

Now he has been in maintenance – the second half of his treatment – and he is doing well.

Aspiring to become a personal trainer, Rocco is building his muscles to get back on the field doing what he loves: playing on the Catholic Youth Organization baseball team with St. Camillus-St. Virgil Parish in Rockaway Beach. He takes precautions while exercising, including wearing a mask, wearing a shield over his chemo port, and keeping an eye on his blood counts.

“It’s really fun,” Rocco said of playing team sports again. “They [my friends] were really excited to see me play again and it’s cool to be back in everything.”

The Pisanis learned of Rocco’s diagnosis a year ago last month, when fears of the coronavirus were still running high in the city. Rocco immediately began going to the hospital every 10 days for a three-day stay to receive first-line chemotherapy. The reason for optimism is that leukemia cells go undetected in Rocco’s bone marrow.

“It’s just such a relief,” said his mother, Jamie, “and we’re so happy and grateful that he can be a bit of a normal kid again.”

However, his treatment protocol still requires additional outpatient and inpatient chemotherapy for the next two and a half years, on a less frequent basis, to ensure that cancer does not return. Rocco takes chemo pills daily and weekly and goes to the hospital for treatment once a month.

“He will then have an epidural every three months,” Jamie said, explaining that her son is still adjusting to the new drugs. “It still seems like a lot, but – to us – we feel like we’re on vacation because it’s not like we’re there [at the hospital] every day.”

Rocco Pisani and his sister Charlie watched their favorite hockey players beat the New York Rangers’ local rivals, the New Jersey Devils, 6-on-3 as part of a four-game series sweep for the New York team. (Photo: Courtesy of Jamie Pisani)

With summer just beginning, the Pisanis plan to continue looking at life from day to day, with Rocco’s health at the forefront. For now, their summer schedule includes biking, fishing, and spending time at the beach.

“Now that he’s in this easier phase, we’re just starting to leave the house for things other than the hospital,” Jamie said, pointing out that their first non-medical outing as a family during the pandemic was a New York Rangers-New Jersey Devils was match at Madison Square Garden in April.

“It almost felt a little weird because I was so crazy about COVID and wasn’t going anywhere,” Rocco said after attending the hockey game. “When we went to the game it felt normal again.”

Rocco remains committed to helping children his age who have been diagnosed with cancer. He’s face-timed other such kids, letting them know they’re not alone when dealing with their own diagnoses. He has also donated 300 multi-colored pill boxes to help them keep track of their medications when they get home from the hospital.

“Making even one person laugh makes me happy,” said Rocco. “It’s just a really good feeling to know that you’re helping someone in some way and that you can make what they’re going through better.”

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