— written by Club Fit Member and Guest Blogger Lisa Skelton
Young Club Fit Member Juliana Vano battles lymphoma with attitude and energy to spare. She is “One Tough Cookie!”
“One Tough Cookie”! That is how Julianna Vano’s family and friends describe the energetic, nonstop 10-year-old. And she has proven this to be true since her diagnosis in December of Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma, the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, accounting for up to 30 percent of newly diagnosed cases in the United States. It is an aggressive cancer, but the Vanos, members of Club Fit Jefferson Valley, reacted quickly, and Julianna is well on her way back to good health.
Mom Joann noticed something was wrong back in November, when Julianna became lethargic and was experiencing abdominal pain. “She’s my Energizer bunny!” she said of Julianna, an avid dancer, and soccer and basketball player. “I knew something was wrong when her energy dipped.” The initial bloodwork at their doctor’s office hinted at Hepatitis A, but when it didn’t improve over two weeks, they went to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and scans revealed masses on all of Julianna’s organs. Treatment was started immediately.
Julianna was on a 20-day chemotherapy cycle, checking in to the hospital every 20 days for 5 to 7 days, then taking a week or two off. But she remained active while she was home, continuing her dance classes 3 to 4 days a week (hip-hop, jazz, ballet…you name it, she does it!) and actually competing this past March! She also recently performed at the halftime show during a Westchester Knicks game. Because of the risk of infection, Julianna was taken out of school and her tumbling classes, but is being tutored at home. Does she miss school? “I think she misses her friends,” laughs Joann.
It was supposed to be a three-month process, but the treatment schedule became longer when a follow-up scan showed a small mass remained on Julianna’s kidney, but the hope is that the additional treatments she is receiving now will take care of that. Going forward, they expect her to have four rounds of “maintenance” treatments, then be free and clear by August. “Through most of this experience, if Julianna didn’t lose her hair or wear a face mask, you’d never know she was sick!” says Joann.
The whole Vano family is active, with Julianna and her two siblings, Bella and Tommy, frequenting Club Fit’s Energy Center, and Mom and Dad spending time in the Fitness Center. As mentioned earlier, Julianna plays travel soccer and travel basketball, and is also a Girl Scout, and plans to return to her activities once treatment is completed. Club Fit is showing their support by hosting two fundraisers for the family at both Club Fit locations, a Spin Class and Kids’ Zumba class. May 20th at Briarcliff and May 27th at Jefferson Valley. All proceeds are going back to the Vano family.
The Vanos are also starting a team for Yorktown’s Relay for Life, aptly named “Team Tough Cookie” (which at this writing is the top fundraising team so far)! Look for their tent on Friday, June 12 at Jack DeVito Field in Yorktown Heights. But you can also get in on the action early by joining us at Club Fit for the Spin and Zumba events, and showing your support for our Tough Cookie Julianna and her family!