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+LIFE LOCALISH GET INSPIRED

GET INSPIRED: OLIVIA HOPE FOUNDATION

For more information about the Olivia Hope Foundation visit their site: http://www.oliviahope.org

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

KARL SCHMID

Shelley Lorusso has endured every parent’s worst nightmare, the loss of a child, but she and her family have turned the loss of her daughter, Olivia, into a fight for more research into childhood cancer. Our doctor, Anu Seshadri, is going to bring us to the story in a second but before we get to that, Anu, tell us a little bit more about Shelley.

DR. ANU

Karl, I just have to say that Shelley is an amazing woman. She used something that was very difficult, she not only had to deal with the loss of a child, but also have to deal with the rest of her children losing a sibling and she turned all of that into something positive that can benefit many other children.

Shelley and Rob Lorusso were living the American Dream with their three daughters, Gianna and twin sisters, Sabrina, and Olivia.

SHELLEY LORUSSO

Olivia was a very old soul. She was just that kid that put everybody else in front of herself. She was that kid that just always wanted to help other people.

DR. ANU

But in 2016, 11 year old Olivia lost her appetite and mysterious bruises began to appear. After countless doctor visits, the pediatrician called with devastating news.

SHELLEY LORUSSO

My daughter was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. It’s a very aggressive form of leukemia.

DR. ANU

Acute myeloid leukemia, also known as AML is a type of blood cancer that starts in the bone marrow. It causes cells to grow improperly, causing immature cells, called blasts, to build up in the patient’s body. As a result, patients can experience more infections and bleeding that doesn’t clot.

SHELLEY LORUSSO

I was desperately trying to save her life, but there was unfortunately, with her type of mutation, there’s no cure.

DR. ANU

But the Lorussos were hopeful and wasted no time in exploring treatments. One option would involve her sister, Sabrina.

SHELLEY LORUSSO

So Olivia was a twin and she had a bone marrow transplant and her twin sister was her donor.

DR. ANU

While waiting to see if the transplant worked, Olivia had an idea.

SHELLEY LORUSSO

We started talking about a foundation. She used to say to me, “you know, mom, as soon as this was all over, I really want to help other kids fighting like me.”

DR. ANU

But a short time later, doctors called with disappointing news.

SHELLEY LORUSSO

Olivia ended up relapsing 72 days after of her bone marrow transplant. It’s really bad. Really bad. So, when you relapse so early, it’s really hard to have a good outcome.

DR. ANU

But Shelley didn’t give up on finding a cure.

SHELLEY LORUSSO

Once she relapsed, I would get up every morning. I would type in AML clinical trials. I was reading like blood journal magazines. I’ve probably emailed every scientist on the planet. I would say if you don’t know any thing that could help her, can you point me in the direction of somebody that can.

DR. ANU

In April 2017, Olivia lost her battle with leukemia. To help with their grief, the family decided to fulfill Olivia’s wish and created the Olivia Hope foundation.

SHELLEY LORUSSO

The response from other people and families has been incredible. I mean, we’ve had support from day one.

The foundation offers emotional and financial support. We have a program called Warrior Support where families that have a child that’s going through treatment, so we help them with medical copays, with gas, with travel, with food, rent, sometimes we do cell phone bills.

DR. ANU

But since the discovery of COVID-19, most cancer treatments have been put on hold. But thanks to a partnership with florence by mills, the foundation is able to continue supporting families in need.

SHELLEY LORUSSO

Cancer isn’t canceled because of COVID, it’s still happening, and when you have a child that has a diagnosis of cancer, it’s terrifying enough. Our brands that support us have continued to support us, and it’s really exciting and we’re just grateful for that.

DR. ANU

One supporter of Olivia’s foundation is actress, Millie Bobby Brown from the Netflix show, Stranger Things.

SHELLEY LORUSSO

Millie and my daughter, Olivia, were really good friends when she was going through treatment, they were introduced by a mutual friend of ours and Millie today is still best friends with my other two daughters. We’re so blessed to have her.

DR. ANU

Olivia’s sisters, Sabrina and Giana made their own contribution to the foundation.

SHELLEY LORUSSO

They run a program called the Liv’s Sibs program. So they reach out a lot to kids that have a sibling that has cancer. They FaceTime, they do Zooms, it’s really, it’s amazing for me as a mom to see my girls that are so involved. I think that helps them honor their sister.

DR. ANU

While the Lorusso family keeps Olivia’s memory alive, they hope someday that all childhood cancers can and will be cured.

SHELLEY LORUSSO

Like I always say to my girls and my family, just never give up hope. We have to constantly have hope. We have to have faith that this is all going to get better and there is something that we are going to be able to contribute to eradicating childhood cancer.

KARL

Anu, thank you so much for sharing that really inspiring story.

DR. ANU

Yeah, it’s a sad, but like you said, truly inspiring story. You know, childhood cancer research only gets 4% of the yearly funding that National Cancer Institute is granted, so we really, really need to work on this and spread the information and get the help that these children need.

KARL

Yeah. Well look, if you’d like to help out Olivia’s Hope, please visit their website for more information.

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