BY CHRISTA LIMONE
WOODLAND PARK – Holy Cross Church in Woodland Park is helping to raise funds for a borough family in need.
A dinner dance is being planned on Friday, Feb. 15 called “Valentine for Josephine,” to raise funds for Josephine Palman, a 13-year-old in eighth grade at Memorial Middle School, who was diagnosed last February with DIPG, a rare and lethal childhood brain cancer.
DIPG affects about 250 children annually. Its survival rate is very low, as there is no cure, according to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Tumors can’t be removed surgically as cancer cells are intermixed with normal cells in the brainstem that are crucial for functions like breathing.
DIPG greatly impacts Josephine’s nervous system. She is currently unable to maintain her balance and can’t walk without assistance. This doesn’t stop her from wanting to go places and enjoy life. When she feels well enough, she likes to go to movies, the mall, or to the spa.
“Josephine’s mom Patricia was told to take her daughter home and enjoy what time she had left in this world,” said Don Malcuit, Patricia’s boss. “This didn’t sit well with Patricia and she and her daughter have been seeking every possible way to fight this horrible monster called DIPG.”
The family has been traveling to New York City for hospital appointments, treatments, physical therapy, MRIs, surgery, biopsies, and radiotherapy. They are now traveling monthly to Monterrey, Mexico, for a chemotherapy treatment not available in the U.S. and not covered by insurance. Exhausting all funds, the family is in serious debt, having spent over $150,000 so far on treatments.
“We have been visiting different doctors and hospitals desperately trying to find care that will help Josephine while we struggle to find a balance between treatment options and quality of life,” her mother Patricia said. “We are praying that while she is fighting, a medical breakthrough will happen… but the cold reality of a brain tumor is weighing heavily on our hearts as our child has the fight of her life ahead of her.”
Doctors are trying to improve her quality of life with weekly physical therapy and occupational therapy. Her teachers come to the house two hours every day to help her keep up with school. And she’s given lots of emotional support and love by her siblings Jonathan, 31, Jessica, 30, Jennifer, 29, Justin, 16, and Julia, 10; family members; and friends.
Josephine, whose nickname is “Pepa,” is not in pain. She’s uncomfortable with some facial paralysis as it impairs her communication and it’s a bit frustrating.
“Pepa is really special,” Malcuit said. “I have never heard her complain. She’s such a brave young lady.”
“Valentine for Josephine” will be held at Holy Cross, 220 Browertown Road., on Friday, Feb. 15 at 5:45 p.m. There will be live music by Dockside, as well as a hot buffet, beer, wine, soda, coffee, tea, and desserts. Donation is $50 per person. For tickets, call 973-223-9762 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. RSVP by Feb. 8.
A GoFund me page has been set up to help raise funds to alleviate medical expenses for the family. The page is located at www.gofundme.com/josephine-the-tumor-warrior. Updates are also available at www.facebook.com/battlebraincancer.