John & Michele's Medical expenses

MD Anderson is not a treatment center one wants to hear about when talking to their doctor, friend or loved one, especially during the holidays; however, if you have the pleasure of knowing John Bongiorno and his lovely wife, Michelle, you know that they are not easily intimidated. You also know that they will take this opportunity to brighten the lives of everyone they meet there.


This journey started this past summer, when Michelle was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colorectal Cancer. This must have been a blow to the family, but John and their three children, Olivia (age 17), John Jr. (age 15), and Sophia (age 12), held Michelle’s diagnosis closely, telling very few people, not wanting to burden anyone with the news. Since the diagnosis was given, Michelle has undergone treatment with the great support of John and the kids, who’s light-heartedness and amazing sense of humor have given her the energy and love needed stay positive during the journey. With this support, she has been and will continue to be up to the task of getting well.

Until recently, Michelle's diagnosis and treatment allowed the family to remain in Daphne, AL, where they could maintain some sense of normalcy with John’s work demands, the children’s school, and the innumerable extracurricular activities the family takes part in, like ROTC, swimming, and being with friends. Needless to say for those that know John and his family, working extra hard to stay positive and on top of increased expenses related to Michelle’s treatment is something John does effortlessly. The whole family has such a graceful demeanor that about them. They have made Michelle’s journey with cancer seem like a cakewalk to those looking from the outside in.


Then, in November, John and Michelle were meeting with Michelle’s oncologist, when Michelle mentioned how John had been acting very tired, something that was out of the norm for John. The two had chalked it up to working long hours of keeping the family on top of things during treatment, but this seemed different.


After testing John for various illnesses, the Bongiorno family received more devastating news: John has Acute Myeloid Leukemia. It seemed so unbelievable considering what the family had been going through with Michelle; words can't describe how that day felt. It must have been as if someone hit the dim switch on their bright and ideal life in Daphne, not once but twice.


But John's diagnosis was critical enough that there was no time to dwell on the negatives (that’s not in his nature anyway); he needed to start receiving treatments immediately, so John and Michelle quickly transferred Michelle’s treatment to MD Anderson so the family could live together in Houston. And within a week, John had begun the process of treatment for Acute Leukemia, and his identical twin sister (the best candidate for matching bone marrow) was on her way to MD Anderson from Australia in hopes that she could donate her marrow and help John’s treatment.

It's hard to put oneself in this family’s shoes. Both John and Michelle have serious conditions and are forced to uproot the family, taking the children out of school, leaving home, friends and familiarity, and knowing that they are headed on a life-altering journey. Of course, in their humility and gracefulness, the family again has made this look easy. John and Michelle make this out as an adventure that will be fun and test their strength, perspective and the brightness of the world.

But for those of us, who are not so strong, this is the last kind of adventure you want this family to take. You always want them to be as they’ve been, smiling, light-hearted and bright.

More than anything, you don’t want them to worry about things that come second to getting well, like money, responsibilities at work, or other obligations. You want to do everything you can to help these kids see their mom and dad stay positive, encouraged, and focused on the challenges ahead with all the energy required for getting well, and you want them to spend as much time with their children as possible, as the gravity for this experience is enough to weigh anyone down, especially kids.

John and his family have been humbled by this. The outpouring of love and the willingness of others to donate time, money and even their own bone marrow, has been and will continue to be the fuel that keeps this family on top. 

 As friends of this family, we ask for your thoughts and prayers as John, Michelle, Olivia, John Jr., and Sophia take this journey to beat cancer twice. And they will!

 But help us help them! John and Michelle have taken leaves from work, but they are unable to take leaves from their expenses, which have increased dramatically with a move to Houston and double cancer treatment. So all donations will go toward the cost of living in Houston and the cost of treatment for John and Michelle. We anticipate the out of pocket expense to be $30,000. More importantly your donations will lift this sweet family’s spirit and, in turn, the spirit of those around them at MD Anderson, who will gravitate toward the brightness and cheerfulness of this beautiful and gracious family.

We love you and God bless,
Your many friends and family

Organizer and beneficiary

John Howard
Metairie, LA
John bongiorno

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