PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Battling cancer can cause a variety of side effects as killing malignant cells can also hurt healthy tissue.
It’s a battle one New Jersey family has been fighting for more than a decade.
Tony Salerno, 13, has been battling neuroblastoma since he was 2.
“I always tell myself stay positive and you’ll get through this,” the Boy Scout said.
Tony also stays entertained with his dog and sister at home in New Jersey, but his activities are limited because of side effects from the treatments that have included chemotherapy, radiation and bone marrow transplants.
“I have a lot less stamina in my legs like other kids, so I can’t run as far or as fast as other kids,” the teenager said.
Karen Salerno, Tony’s mom, keeps all his medications organized, but it’s not for the cancer that’s now under control, it’s because of the cancer treatments that caused collateral damage.
“I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that something doesn’t strike me that makes me say I’m thankful that he’s still here,” she said.
Tony takes 45 pills every day because he now has kidney failure.
“Sometimes you just get so frustrated you want to scream what else does he have to deal with,” Salerno said. “You can’t be mad because you realize that treatment was necessary to save his life, so I have to deal with this because I wouldn’t have wanted the alternative.”
Dr. Wendy Hobbie, the associate director of the Cancer Survivorship Program at CHOP, called it a double-edged sword.
“The goal of chemo and radiation is to kill cancer cells, but unfortunately with children, it may destroy a percentage of healthy cells,” Hobbie said.
Tony now needs a kidney transplant and his dad is a match. If all the testing pans out, the operation could happen in September.
“It’s scary you’re putting two members of your family through surgery and treatment,” said Salerno.
Until the transplant, Tony has to be on a special diet.
“It’s always something,” Salerno said. “There’s no way of escaping it, even for a day.”
Tony’s final dose of chemo was in 2006. Since then, he’s been cancer-free, but he also has a higher risk of developing a secondary cancer because of the treatments.