An elementary school teacher and mother of four boys ranging from 17-25 years old, Debbie Llanes was introduced to Joe and Jen Andruzzi by mutual connections during a challenging time in her life. In 2008, her youngest son, Joey, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The diagnosis was tough to digest and the treatment plan was implemented so quickly that no one had a moment to think about it.
“It was a true charitable gift that Joe Andruzzi volunteered to take time away from his own family on Christmas Eve to visit our Joey,” said Debbie Llanes. “When they finally met, Joe not only inspired Joey by sharing pictures of his own cancer battle, but also brought signed items from his Patriots teammates that touched our hearts and lifted our spirits.”
Joey never complained and set an amazing example of determination, strength and faith. He had to undergo surgery, chemotherapy and radiation before an intense round of physical therapy to learn how to walk and talk again. This honor roll student has been cancer-free since May 2009 and caught up on his studies quickly. For his senior project, Joey is raising money for cancer research and now wants to pursue a biomedical engineering degree in college.
Focused on her family, Debbie couldn’t believe it when she felt a lump in her breast in August 2010 and delayed a mammogram until January 2011. Thanks to a referral from Joey’s doctors she was seen quickly once they realized the tumor was malignant. At first it was hard to assure her kids that she wouldn’t die, but who thought cancer would strike twice in one family so suddenly?
Fortunately, Debbie saw her son Joey attend his prom and her oldest son, Matt, get married. Debbie reminds us, “If you have any inkling that there’s something wrong, go to your doctor immediately. Cancer is non-selective so don’t think it can’t happen to you. Act quickly, stay positive and get ready for the news that you’re cancer-free!”