KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
September 18, 2023
By Natalie Cook Clark
Daniella Grace DiPetta will turn four next week. She is spunky, smart, resilient and a cancer warrior. She was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) last February. Daniella wants Katy families to know that she is “Daniella the Strong.”
The DiPetta Family: Daniel, Daniella, Maria, and Titus. Photo courtesy of the DiPetta Family.
Cancer is Real
“Cancer is real, and it doesn’t discriminate,” says Daniella’s mother Maria DiPetta. “Leukemia is real and there needs to be more awareness of it.”
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
September, Daniella’s birthday month, is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. According to Texas Children’s Hospital, 1 in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20. Of that, 1 in 6 children with cancer will not survive. Cancer is the number one cause of disease-related death in children. Despite these facts, only 4% of the federal government’s cancer research budget goes to pediatric cancer research.
“I wish I didn’t ignore those pamphlets, commercials and billboards It saddens me that my Daniella had to be diagnosed with leukemia in order for me to get involved and proactively spread awareness.
Daniella’s journey began last February when her mother noticed a small lump in her inner thigh. Since Daniella didn’t have any fever or pain from the lump, they made an appointment but didn’t think much of it. When the lump grew that week, they went in and had blood work down, but still weren’t that concerned.
That night, the DiPetta family did their usual Friday Night Chick-fil-A outing and Daniella played in the play area as usual. During dinner, Daniella’s pediatrician called with urgency requesting they immediately head to Texas Children’s Hospital in the Medical Center.
Both Maria and Daniel DiPetta were confused to be instructed by Daniella’s doctor to head to the emergency room where they were told three oncologists were going to be waiting for them.
“It was a parents worst nightmare,” says Maria. Daniella had multiple tests that night and a team of doctors informed the family that she had some type of cancer, possibly leukemia. She was later diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL.)
“We hugged our little girl so tight that night,” says Maria. Currently, Daniella is about to enter Interim Maintenance, followed by Maintenance.
Daniella loves Disney Princesses, especially Rapunzel. Her mom says that she wants her hair to be as lengthy as Rapunzel's, which was very hard for them when she lost her hair due to cancer. Maria recalls putting her to bed one evening and then getting her the next morning to see so much of her hair had fallen out on her pillow.
“Daniella doesn’t quite understand why she goes to the doctor a lot, but she loves all the nurses and her doctor,” says Maria. “Her eyes light up when she sees the bell that hangs at the doctor’s office and says, ‘One day I’ll ring that bell.’”
The DiPetta’s have a long journey ahead, but they say they take it day by day.
“It’s during times like these, when you’re facing the hardest battle in your life and seeing your baby fighting this terrible disease, that you discover what people’s hearts are truly made of,” says Maria.
The DiPettas are thankful for family, friends, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, coworkers, and complete strangers from across the country who continue to support them during this time. Some of their friends even cleaned their house while they were in the hospital. Daniella’s church friends and teachers set up virtual bible classes so she wouldn’t miss her lessons.
Helpful organizations have included Luke’s Fastbreak that provide shirts with easy access to Daniella’s port, B.I.G Love Cancer Care provide meals while at the hospital and Candelighters arrange parent sessions that provide moral support during these difficult times.
“Every night Daniella says her prayers and thanks God for protecting ‘Daniella the Strong’ today,” says Maria. “In the darkest of times, Daniella’s resilience is our strength. She truly is ‘Daniella the Strong.’”
This is the first September since Daniella’s diagnosis, but the DiPetta family want to help spread the word about Childhood Cancer all the time.
“I was so naïve and would say, ‘That would never happen to my child. We don’t have a history of cancer,’ boy was I wrong,” says Maria.
These Kids are Warriors
Maria wants other Katy families going through this journey to know that they will find strength in their “warrior” children and God.
“It will feel like you and your baby are going through hell, and you might question, ‘Why is this happening to my child?’” says Maria. “I found that my strength came from my spunky little girl whom we call ‘Daniella The Strong’ and also from my faith in God.”
Maria and Daniel DiPetta have been married for seven years and moved to Katy in 2017. They have two children; Daniella Grace DiPetta, who turns 4 on September 25, and Titus Daniel DiPetta IV, 2-years-old.
“It’s heartbreaking to see that childhood cancer research funding is nothing compared to adult cancer research and that’s worrisome,” says Maria. “Our kids deserve better.”