Last Set, Best Set! Tony's Fight Against Cancer
$2,060 raised
1% of $200k goal
16 contributors
4 Years running
Only the Strong Survive: A Lifter Living with Leukemia

When I met Tony is 2009, he had already been living with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia for over a year. I intentionally say,"living with," because at that particular time, it was not necessary to...

When I met Tony is 2009, he had already been living with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia for over a year.  I intentionally say, "living with," because at that particular time, it was not necessary to "fight" the disease.  While his white blood cell count was,indeed, steadily rising, and his platelet count was in the low range of normal, he looked and felt healthy.  He had made a deliberate choice to manage his illness through nutrition and weight training, and I fully supported him in that decision.  

His entire life had been spent in the gym with the old-timers, training hard and lifting heavy.  Back then, he was known as "Big Rick" Giannone, and was training partner to Lee Haney, Rachel McLish, Matt Mendenhall, Victor Richards, The Barbarian Brothers, and countless others.  He was dedicated to the old-school, hardcore lifestyle, and when I met him, nothing had changed.  

We met, predictably, in a gym.  I was a personal trainer and group x instructor, and Tony had been hired as the new Director of Operations.  Our professional and personal relationship started there; the details can be found in my book, "Strength and Grace," which chronicles our journey to the national bodybuilding stage, as well as our battle with cancer, including chemotherapy - all while homeless.

We are both very fitness-focused and health-oriented, so it just made sense to continue on the holistic path, while still being monitored by specialists.  And although his oncologist seemed to think that chemotherapy was the cure for the common cold, Tony used to joke that unless - and until - he woke up one morning to find his ear still on the pillow, he would avoid chemo.

Then pneumonia struck, followed quickly by enlarged cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure, with an ejection fraction of 22 percent.  During that hospitalization, his kidneys and liver failed, and he developed an infectious disease.  We both saw that as the proverbial "ear on the pillow,"  and wrestled with the idea of chemo.

Although it conflicted with our better judgement, we both felt that under the circumstances, we were out of options.  FCR was the prescribed method of treatment, and he endured four rounds.  It was a nightmare.  Chemo is poison, pure and simple.   It only bought him eight months of remission, and for six of those, he was miserable.  

Whether the chemo caused his condition to worsen is up for debate, but unfortunately, Tony's health is deteriorating rapidly.  

Because personal training has been slow, I have been working extremely long hours doing administration work for some friends to try and make ends meet.  Between working 10-12 hour days, caring for him and taking him to all his appointments, picking up prescriptions, and running general errands, I'm pulling anywhere between 16-18 hours per day, sometimes 20.  It's just not working anymore; I can't keep up with the expenses, we've exhausted all our savings, and the worst part is I have to be away from him all that time, instead of taking care of him.  He's left alone all day, and we both want to change that.  He really wants me to be by his side right now, and I want to be there. A couple friends have suggested a Facebook fundraising page, and believe it or not, Tony has actually agreed to it.  That in itself is indicative of how serious his condition has become; his "pride" is gone. All he cares about is having me with him right now. 

Pamela Giannone


Elite Physiques, Inc.

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