Back in October, Brittany Zaita was diagnosed with a tumor that only affects one in eight million children. The 16 year old also got the news that her tumor is one of the 10 percent that are cancerous.
“When she was diagnosed, I felt like I was going to fall apart,” said Alisa Zaita, the teen’s mother. “It’s all brand new. We just got thrown into this waterfall and it was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m drowning, what am I going to do?’”
The paraganglioma tumor outside Brittany’s kidney metastasized to her spine in several areas, and since it is so rare, treatment options and therapies are few and far between.
The Howard Beach family held a fundraiser at Russo’s on the Bay Monday night to promote their daughter’s cause and raise funds for her treatment. The formal dinner event brought in almost 700 people.
“I’m so thankful that everyone would be so compassionate,” Brittany said. “I don’t have words.”
The high school junior said she was “surprised” when she got her diagnosis.
“I feel like I have to take it in stride, one day at a time,” she said. “I try to stay positive and just surround myself with good people, good energy.”
After her diagnosis, Brittany underwent an over eight hour surgery to remove the tumor at Memorial SloanCancer Center.
Now, she is stable but receives regular scans to make sure the tumor doesn’t reappear and also takes blood pressure medication every day.
“This is going to be a lifelong thing,” said her mother.
Next, the Zaitas will head to Bethesda, Maryland to the National Institute of Health, a leader in treating this cancer.