Brother inspires student to be nurse

When nursing student Allison Ruggiero’s brother Evan was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in October 2009, she said it was not only a shock that shook her world but one that solidified her desire to become a nurse.

Osteosarcoma is a rare bone cancer that generally affects males between the ages of 12 and 18, Ruggiero said.

“We were told that the cancer was contained within the tibia bone and that his chances of survival and of being cured were greater than 80 percent,” Ruggiero said.

After enduring nine surgeries to save his leg that included taking bone from one leg and muscle from his back and skin from his thigh, Ruggiero said none of it worked.

The cancer had spread invading the soft tissue of his leg. Ruggiero said it was now called spindle cell sarcoma or malignant fibrous histiocytoma, a soft tissue cancer.

Evan went to chemotherapy treatments four days per week for 12 hours per day, Ruggiero said.

“Spending all of those days and months in the hospital with him solidified my desire to be a nurse,” Ruggiero said. “I realized I loved the medical aspect of nursing but I also loved the nurturing part too.”

Ruggiero said she feels that her experience with her brother has steered her to pediatric oncology.

“I feel that not everyone is cut out to deal with the intensity of this field because you can experience so much loss,” Ruggiero said. “But, I also know from my brother Evan that you can experience so much joy and fulfillment from helping someone survive cancer.”

Ruggiero said with all the bad stuff, including her brother having to amputate a leg, she looks at him now and is so proud of all that he has done.

“He is my strong and talented brother that I have always supported,” Ruggiero said.

Although this has proven to be an obstacle, Evan never gave up on his singing career.

In June 2012, Evan auditioned for the popular singing competition “American Idol” in Newark, Ruggiero said. This past fall, he finally reached the judges audition but didn’t make it to the Hollywood round.

“In the end, Evan handled that disappointment like a gentleman and with the grace and dignity that he has handled all the ups and downs of his career and especially with the integrity that he has handled his life since being diagnosed with cancer,” Ruggiero said.

Ruggiero said that Evan inspires her to never give up on her dream of being a nurse no matter what because he never gave up.

She said that hundreds and perhaps thousands of people, including herself, wear his bracelet that reads “TEAM EVAN ‘DETERMINATION.”

“That is how he lives his life and that is how I will pursue my career as a nurse,” Ruggiero said.

Madelyn Abdalla can be reached at madelyn.abdalla@ student.shu.edu.

Author: Staff Writer

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