A GoFundMe page is being set up where people can donate to Frankie LaSasso’s family, who is fighting leukemia. (Photos courtesy of Frank LaSasso)
By MADDY VITALE
Ocean City Intermediate School math teacher Frank LaSasso is also an assistant coach for Ocean City High School’s varsity baseball and soccer teams.
He is used to guiding students and athletes through adversity and teaching them skills to deal with challenges in the classroom and on the track and field.
No matter how difficult or difficult a problem is, there is a way to get through it, learn from it, succeed, get that winning grade, win that game or learn from failure, he teaches students and athletes .
In his personal life, LaSasso, 35, from Hammonton, uses the very skills he imparts to others to combat something far scarier than anything he and his wife, Tiffany, have dealt with in their family.
Their son, Frankie, 7, was diagnosed with cancer on December 7, 2020. The official name for what Frankie has is T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He has been receiving weekly chemotherapy treatments and has been doing so since his diagnosis.
“When you’re dealing with a situation of this magnitude, especially in the first month, it’s extremely overwhelming until you get into a routine,” LaSasso said in an interview Thursday.
He continued, “If you had told me a year ago that this was going to happen, my initial reaction would have been that there is no way to mentally handle it,” he said of him and his wife, Tiffany.
But when it actually happened, they went into survival mode, to be strong for each other and their son, and younger son, 6-year-old Gino.
“There really isn’t much time to feel sorry for ourselves, and as with any team, feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t solve any problem anyway,” he said.
Frank and Tiffany LaSasso with Frankie.
Frankie’s maternal grandfather, Tim Jones, set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help the family with expenses. So far, nearly half of the $ 10,000 goal has been raised.
To donate, visit the GoFundMe page by clicking here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/cwr4sm-fight-like-frankie?utm_campaign=p_cp_url&utm_medium=os&utm_source=customer
The family is going to make it.
‘You’re either going to crumble, or you’re going to get up and face adversity. And we both chose the latter, ”noted LaSasso.
And it seems that young Frankie has some of that toughness, strength and resilience that his father and grandfather have.
‘He’s so tough. He never complains, ”his father said.
Frankie (No. 4) runs with the ball for the Hammonton Hawks.
What started as a persistent cough in October ended in three negative COVID-19 tests, continued trips to the doctors, and eventually a diagnosis that Frankie needed chemotherapy right away.
“When we go to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), it’s so amazing to see how many kids there are and how many kids have been there for a long time,” said LaSasso. “Cancer in children is not uncommon. It’s something you can get through, but not everyone gets through. “
And the speed and speed of their son’s illness was alarming, he said.
Their son went from an active sport, including playing tackle football for the Hammonton Hawks and Little League baseball, to being very lethargic.
He was not his normal active self. Once we got past the cough and lethargy, his appetite waned. We waited six days for the blood test to come back, ”LaSasso explained.
“We thought it was anemia or mono,” he noted. “When the diagnosis came, they immediately transferred him to a room at CHOP.”
There are times when Frankie undergoes chemo for five days in a row.
And Frankie has months of treatment ahead of him.
The family travels to the CHOP clinic in Voorhees for his treatments, which will continue until mid-August. From mid-August to April 2023, he will receive monthly chemotherapy, called maintenance.
“He has chemo for two more years. At the end of the summer, it will be monthly instead of weekly, ”noted LaSasso.
Frankie left with his little brother Gino on his first day of school this week.
Frankie returned to school this week at the Hammonton Early Childhood Education Center, where he is in the first grade.
His family wants him to live as normal a life as possible in a time when life seems anything but normal.
“It is important to his mental state that he remains active,” said LaSasso. “He just does what he can every day.”
Ocean City’s Red Raiders football team ran an online fundraiser for Frankie this winter, themed “Fight Like Frankie.” Those words were on the shirts, along with Frankie’s number 4. The back of the shirts said “#LaSasso Strong”.
More than 600 shirts were sold, the proceeds of which went to the family.
“We are so grateful to the Ocean City community. We don’t live here, but the amount of support we’ve received has been great, ”said LaSasso. “When you coach, you come into contact with many families. The community has always treated our family like theirs and it is very humiliating. “
LaSasso also spoke about the fundraiser for Frankie.
“I am not someone who wants an award ceremony. My father-in-law says people want to help. And we are so grateful to the generous people who want to help us. When people donate for him, we can do some things for him that we might not have done on a normal budget. “
Frank LaSasso in his role as an assistant football coach for the Ocean City Red Raiders. (Photo provided by Frank LaSasso)
The money raised has already been spent on buying gas to go back and forth for treatment, meals on treatment days, and to disinfect the house on a weekly basis.
And the hope is that when the cancer treatments are all over, and Frankie will make it better again, the family of four can go on vacation together, away from the past years of chemotherapy, away from the cancer diagnosis, and back to health and happiness. .
The family has not been on holiday together since July 2019 and can only be when Frankie has finished his treatments in August 2023.
“That will be his 10th anniversary,” said LaSasso. “When he finishes chemo, it will be a milestone. We’re almost getting through the hardest part. This will not go away any time soon, even after the chemo is over. But we live from day to day. We appreciate every day and we watch Frankie. He’s doing great. He is super cool. He is our inspiration. “
Frankie made the first pitch last week for the Coaches vs. Cancer Showcase.