Kara Hirsch had suffered through minor pains in her back, hip and joints for years. But in early January, she received life-altering news — her condition was much worse than she thought.
The 19-year-old was diagnosed with Metastasized Ewing Sarcoma, a malignant bone cancer that affects young people that had spread from her hip to her leg.
“I was never really upset by it, but my family is. I guess it’s still sinking in,” said Hirsch, of Central Islip. “Doctors told us it’s a type of bone cancer that I’ve had since I was born.”
Hirsch, who had been attending St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, is now undergoing her first cycle of chemotherapy treatments that will continue for one year. She will also need surgery and radiation treatments at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.
To help pay their bills, the family’s holding “Karing for Kara,” a fundraiser with a raffle auction, dinner and live entertainment on April 14 from 2-6 p.m. at the Mediterranean Manor in Patchogue.
Dr. Paul Meyers, pediatric oncologist and vice chairman of the department of pediatrics at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, said it’s a rare disease with no more than 350 cases a year in the United States occurring in young people ages 10-20.
“We hope to see a good response with chemotherapy,” Meyers said. “Most adults would get knocked off their feet by this, but these kids are so resilient and bounce back. The most important thing we can do is treat them under the assumption they will be cured.”
Although the initial diagnosis shocked her mother Tobi Hirsch, she tries to stay positive.
“Kara has always been the type to take the bull by the horns and get through it,” said Tobi Hirsch, 46. “She’s strong for us all and I know we’re going to get through this.”
Hirsch, who was in her third semester at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, said she recently was told the tumor in her leg was gone, and the one in her hip had shrunk.
“If you’re going through what I am, stay positive, it makes it easier on your family and you never know, miracles can happen,” Kara Hirsch said. “We’re hopeful.”
Kara Hirsch’s best friend of 14 years, Angela DeSimone accompanies her to every chemotherapy treatment, staying by her side in the hospital for at least a week.
“She’s pretty much my sister,” said DeSimone, 19, of Medford. “When I heard the news, I was a wreck. I cried all the time. Kara is the strong one.”
DeSimone, who took a semester off at St. Joseph’s College to be there for her friend, was scared at first, but isn’t now because the chemotherapy treatment seems to be working.
“I know everything is going to be OK,” DeSimone said. “It’s just going to be a long road for her, but we’ll all be right there with her along the way.”
For more information on the fundraiser, visit facebook.com/karingforkara.