Thank you for for visiting my fundraising page!
I am running my first ever marathon (and probably my last...the furthest I've run is 13.1 so 26.2 feels next to impossible!) for my cousin on December 7th, 2019 in Memphis, TN. I would so appreciate your support in both knowing my cousin's story below and giving to a place that's become really special to my family - St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
My 15 year old cousin, Alexis Grace Bezilla, has been receiving treatment there for brain cancer for over two years. She is really special to me and has always been my little buddy - to see her going through this treatment has been nothing short of heartbreaking for our entire family. I have learned by watching her incredibly courageous battle that if she can continue to fight through this, I can power through 26.2. Those few hours will be nothing compared to what she and her family have been through.
If you have any interest in running with me (there's a half, 10K, and 5K too!), I would love for you to join!
In March of 2017, my cousin April D'Amore Bezilla and her husband Brad Bezilla received news about their daughter Alexis that no family deserves. Less than 6 months after April’s mom (our beloved Aunt Cheryl) passed away while awaiting a lung transplant, April and Brad’s 13 year old daughter Alexis was diagnosed with a metastatic brain tumor, Medulloblastoma. Medulloblastoma is a cancerous brain tumor that grows out of the cerebellum. Cancer cells then typically spread through cerebrospinal fluid to other areas around the brain and spinal cord.
Alexis was rushed to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital for emergency surgery for hydrocephalus. She then underwent two additional brain surgeries - one to resect her tumor and the other to address the ongoing challenge of relieving the build up cerebral spinal fluid on the brain. Alexis was then accepted at St. Jude for treatment. For the following 10 months they temporarily relocated to Memphis where Alexis underwent 35 rounds of radiation therapy, 7 rounds of chemotherapy, multiple MRIs, and too many needle pokes to count. She did all of this with a remarkable amount of grace and bravery. She has been known at St. Jude’s by many nurses and staff members for being one of the toughest kids there.
In January of 2018, Brad, April and Alexis received the miraculous news that Alexis was cancer free, and she was able to return home to be a normal teenager again. For several months she regained strength, spent time with friends, began horseback riding, and returned to school. Those few months were not nearly long enough of a respite.
In August of 2018, Alexis’ mom April was shockingly diagnosed with a rare cancer called Liposarcoma. April embarked on a journey her daughter had so recently suffered and began radiation. In December of 2018 she underwent surgery to have what ended up being an 8 lbs tumor removed from her abdomen as well as parts of several surrounding organs encased by the tumor, which will cause life-long challenges for April to manage.
As if this news alone wasn’t enough, a short two months after April's diagnosis, they received the devastating news that Alexis had relapsed. Two new lesions appeared on her spine and cancer cells were found in her cerebral spinal fluid – leptomeningeal disease. They returned to Memphis the beginning of November 2018 to begin another treatment for Alexis, where she has since had countless rounds of radiation and been in clinical trials to try to find a cure for this very rare and aggressive complication.
Through all of this they have displayed nothing but grace and courage. They are choosing joy and are determined to stay positive. They have faced insurmountable obstacles but continue to be an inspiration to all of us. Thank you so much for your support.