Dana and Morgan Fischer know all too well the shock and horror of having a child with cancer, a disease that afflicts more children each year. The Fischer family feels blessed and is grateful that their son, Billy, is a survivor and has been devoted to raising money for cancer research for the past five years. A fundraiser will be held at The Downtown Café, 4 School St., Glen Cove, on Saturday, Nov. 7, from noon to 4 p.m.
Billy is now a sophomore at Locust Valley High School. At age 10, he was diagnosed with Central Nervous System (CNS) Germinoma, a rare malignant brain cancer that accounts for 5 percent of all intracranial tumors seen in patients younger than 20 years of age. Today, thanks to advances in pediatric cancer research, Billy’s chances of long term survival have increased from 65 percent to 98 percent and Nov. 10 marks five years.
On June 4, 2010, Billy was admitted to The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) in New Hyde Park, following an MRI. On June 10, 2010, Billy had brain surgery to diagnose what was plaguing him. Thanks to Dr. Steven Schneider and cutting edge technology, a diagnosis of CNS Germinoma was immediate. The Fischers were quickly made to understand that this type of aggressive cancer gives you one chance to eradicate and that an intense exact protocol was required. At CCMC, Billy’s oncologist, Dr. Mark Atlas, administered lifesaving chemotherapy over 12 weeks. He needed five different chemo drugs two times each.
Following Billy’s chemotherapy and a two week break, the family moved to Boston and proceeded with six weeks of daily proton radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital. On Nov. 10, 2010, in a ceremony, Billy rang the heart-stirring Brass Bell at the William H. Burr Proton Center in celebration of completing the biggest job of his life. He celebrated his last cancer treatment and had the future ahead of him.
Billy still has hurdles to overcome. Speech, fatigue, memory and cognitive difficulties challenge him daily. He still suffers from the effects of tumor damage, chemotherapy and radiation damage and still continues with occupational therapy and speech therapy.
“He is bright, charming and funny. He works very hard every single day,” said Billy’s mother Dana Cavaliere Fischer, a real estate agent with Laffey Fine Homes International. “The worst part for Billy is keeping up with his friends. Sometimes he seems lonely and frequently states, ‘Why did I get cancer?’ That breaks my heart. However, the support from family, friends and our community has truly been uplifting and unforgettable. We all know how blessed we are and take nothing in life for granted.”
The Downtown Café owners John Zozzaro, Frankie Basile and Vincent Abbondandolo have opened their doors for this event for five years now. The cost is $10 for adults, $5 for kids. There will be a specially priced menu and a cash bar.
“We are so thankful to them and their amazing staff and generosity,” said Morgan Fischer. “There will be fabulous raffle prizes and live auctions donated from local community shops and restaurants. There is a golf foursome donated by Eric Trump for any Trump golf course in the world. The Trump family donates only three of these golf outings to charity per year. Beloved Billy Joel has donated an autographed item to our event each year and this year is no different. It is always a spirited auction. There is artwork, a Las Vegas weekend and many more surprises big and small. There is also live music from the very entertaining Jimmy Red and an amazing glass blower Hugh Naggar, who travels all the way from Springfield, MA. The money raised goes directly to pediatric cancer research at Cohen Children’s Medical Center-North Shore LIJ.”
Last January, Billy and his family were invited for a tour of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research (the research arm of North Shore-LIJ Health System located on their Manhasset campus). Dr. Jeffrey Lipton, chief of hematology/oncology at CCMC showed and told them exactly how their money is put to use.
“The beautiful thing about our fund is that we can delegate exactly how we want the money used. We even give a portion to Child Life at CCMC. Child Life staffers are just like angels. They play and talk and sing and help keep the children calm during unthinkable moments,” Morgan said. “Dr. Lipton also told us the importance of the ‘Billy Fund,’ as it is affectionately referred to in the lab. Relatively small among giants, it is accessible and highly valued. Their invaluable medical findings begins with our fund. Their life changing cancer breakthroughs are shared with the greatest institutions around the world.”
To make a donation: make checks payable to: CCMC. In the memo write: Billy Fischer Cancer Research. Mail to: Billy Fischer Cancer Research Fund, 5 Locust Lane, Upper Brookville, NY 11545. All donations are tax deductible. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.