Pope Helped Baby’s Brain Tumor

Jennifer O'Neill
·Writer
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One-year-old Gianna Masciantonio’s stunning recovery from a brain tumor that threatened her life at birth is due to divine intervention, say her parents.

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Two months after Pope Francis kissed the baby girl on Philadelphia’s Market Street during his World Meeting of Families trip to the city, the tot’s tumor has nearly disappeared. “We are ecstatic to announce that her tumor is almost undetectable,” mom Kristen Masciantonio wrote in a Nov. 14 Facebook post regarding Gianna’s first MRI scan since her smooch from the pope. “The radiologists are unable to determine the percentage of the shrinkage because they can no longer tell where the edges of the tumor are.” Mom’s post has been making news in the family’s community and beyond.

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(Photo: CBS2 NY)

The tumor hasn’t completely disappeared yet, dad Joey Masciantonio tells Yahoo Parenting, but he still marvels over the incredible change his daughter has experienced in just the past few weeks. “It’s gone down tremendously,” he says, “and she will still need to go through chemotherapy, but she’s thriving. It’s amazing to see. She’s just come to life.”

That the bodyguard who held Gianna up for her papal kiss in Philadelphia on Sept. 26 was reportedly Domenico Giani has special meaning for the family, whose elder son’s name is Dominic.

That papal kiss, Joey insists, is a special part of what prompted Gianna’s turnaround. “We believe that it’s God’s miracle, but it’s been his hand all along for us,” he adds. “Faith has kept us going through the really dark, dark times. Her whole life is a miracle.”

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(Photo: CBS2 NY)

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It certainly didn’t seem that way at in the beginning, though. Diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor shortly after birth, Gianna endured seven brain surgeries and five rounds of chemotherapy before doctors determined she had a rare histiocytic disorder called systemic juvenile xanthogranuloma (JXG). “She was given no chance to live when she was born,” says Joey. “We were told, ‘Go home and enjoy final weeks with your daughter.’” Further, the father told ABC6, “We did all the things that no parent should have to do. We planned funerals. We made arrangements.“

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The Masciantonio family. (Photo: CBS2 NY)

Yet “she’s defied every medical odd in the world,” Joey tells Yahoo Parenting, crediting the family’s Catholic faith. “Through the whole thing, we relied on our faith, knowing that whatever the outcome, God would get us through.” Adds his mom, Andrea Masciantonio, to Yahoo Parenting: “From the day that Gianna was diagnosed, people have been praying for her from around the world.”

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(Photo: CBS2 NY)

Today the little champ is blowing kisses and, Joey says, “to get that first one from a daughter is just amazing.” Her first smile hasn’t come yet, he says, because the tumor paralyzed part of her face, “but it’s getting better.” Joey, a director of sales, took all of his eight paid weeks of paternity leave from Johnson & Johnson (for which he says he is “eternally grateful”) to be by his daughter’s side during her chemotherapy treatments and doctor appointments. “Gianna is doing great,” he says. “And after all that she’s been through, to see her fight through is an inspiration to all of us.”

(Top photo: AP)


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