In the Suburbs: Team Giacomo on a roll to beat Fairfield teen’s cancer diagnosis
“Undefeatable!” “Challenge Me!”
Those are Fairfielder Giacomo Brancato’s battke cries in the fight he is winning against Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, which is now in remission. This amazing Fairfield Warde High School junior, an avid basketball and baseball player, is not only undefeatable, he is unstoppable, according to his mother Mirella. And now he wants to help and inspire other teen cancer survivors so they can beat their cancer with a similar positive attitude — and the spirit to marshal a lot of personal strength.
Giacomo has formed Team Giacomo for the 11th annual 2015 CT Challenge (www.ctchallenge.org) on July 24-15, and as of early this week, the team’s list of riders was already about 35.
CT Challenge has made him honorary co-chairman of this year’s fundraising event — his first — and that distinction has made him even more determined to go all the way on his ride.
More than 1,000 riders are already registered overall and there is plenty of room for more, according to Challenge officials.
I became emotional just watching the YouTube video that the Challenge folks helped Giacomo make —“Challenge Me. Challenge Cancer” — where he asks the question of potential riders, “Will you ride with me?” Believe me, Giacomo, if I could hoist this chubby body onto a bike, I’d gladly join Team Giacomo, but I’m afraid I’ll have to be in the rooting section instead.
Mirella Brancato, Giacomo’s mom, explained that when the family first heard his cancer diagnosis they were nearly devastated and had a lot of “Why Giacomo?” kind of questions. But she said he was the strong one for the entire family. “It was amazing,” she said. “He was always positive. He just knew he was going to get better and he sent that energy to everyone.”
Giacomo is one of three siblings in the Brancato family. His younger brother will be a sophomore in the fall and his sister will be entering first grade. I didn’t find out whether his sister will be riding in the CT Challenge, but his brother and mom are certainly giving it a lot of thought.
“When I first heard the diagnosis, I was very upset,” Giacomo said, “but I made the decision I was going to beat this thing and I have. I’ve learned that no matter what the situation is, there are ways to make things better. I believe the reason I’m in remission now is because I made up my mind not to let cancer defeat me! The CT Challenge has helped a lot with my attitude.”
In the early days of Giacomo’s illness, he didn’t know about the CT Challenge, according to his mom. But his basketball coach, Paul Krumins, told him he might want to consider going to the Southport-based center and registering as a cancer survivor. They assured him that the CT Challenge inspires and empowers survivors to be stronger individuals by teaching them to be relaxed and comfortable.
Giacomo made the decision to visit the Challenge center and he has no regrets, according to his mom. He’s hoping to build his bike team to at least double the number of riders who have signed up already. He is a real inspiration to everyone he meets.
According to the CT Challenge aims to inspire members and their families by saying, “Helping cancer survivors isn’t easy, it’s amazing.” The organization, according to its publicity, aims to help the 14.5 million cancer survivors in Connectcut and the rest of the nation “rebuild, improve and prolong their lives through exercise, nutrition, mind-body health and community-building support programs.”
The CT Challenge opened the Center for Survivorship in 2012 as an incubator for best practices in cancer survivorship care.
Since its inception, the annual Bike Ride has raised a total of $11 million, the primary source of funding for its programs. Last year, the ride raised $2 million, the most in its history.
Riders have the option of choosing from 10-, 25-, 50-, 75- or 100-mile increments. To register, contact www.bike.ctchallenge.org. For more information, contact Lee Crouch (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Gillian Clark (email@example.com).