Patrick Mancuso, 19, spends most days working with cameras, video games and music at Best Buy. When he’s not at work, he attends classes at Central Texas College, where he studies history and aspires to be a history professor and biologist.
The Nolanville resident is like any other college student, and that’s exactly how he wants others to see him.
But on Easter Sunday five years ago, Mancuso was anything but an average student as he lay in bed at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio after undergoing a bone marrow transplant.
The procedure was successful. Now the once athletic and active football player celebrates his victory over cancer by living life to the fullest. “It’s been pretty good,” he said. “I still have issues, but it’s better.”
The road to recovery wasn’t an easy one. Mancuso recalled Dec. 4, 2007, the day he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
“I had joint pains and was always tired and was getting really sick,” Mancuso said. “I was playing football and started getting weaker and weaker. I couldn’t really figure out what was going on with me, and they actually thought it was growing pains.”
Mancuso, who was 14, said his body was deteriorating and he was losing weight. During a visit to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood he discovered what was wrong.
“We went to get a normal blood draw and we saw that my white blood count was over 200,000,” Mancuso said.
With his white blood count about 20 times higher than it should have been, Mancuso was sent to Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
‘Now or never’
“I had mixed reactions and my mindset was to get it over with just so I could get back to playing football,” Mancuso said.
His mother, Simone Mancuso, said they didn’t have time to react to the news. “It was now or never,” she said.
Patrick Mancuso underwent months of unsuccessful chemotherapy treatments before doctors began the search for a bone marrow donor. Several donor drives conducted by the community led to a match in Michigan.
On Easter Sunday 2008, Mancuso received the transplant and now, five years later, he is on his way to living the life he dreamed about.
“It’s been a very slow recovery,” he said. “I’m not really tired when I do stuff now because its adrenaline pushing me, but I’m tired when I stop doing stuff.”
“He has some challenges, but it’s OK,” Simone Mancuso said. “He still has some toxicity issues related to the extreme treatment, and we have a team of medical doctors that are looking at his liver.”
Patrick Mancuso continues to have his blood drawn monthly, but doctors don’t think the complications with his liver will prevent him from moving forward with his life.
“For someone who has gone through treatment, he is doing remarkable,” said Lisa McDonald, pediatric nurse practitioner at Methodist Children’s Hospital. ‘It’s rewarding to see that he can pull through and turn into an amazing young man.”
Although he no longer picks up a football, Mancuso has taken up other activities like paintball and is active in Relay for Life. This summer, he will serve as a counselor at the American Cancer Society’s Camp Discovery.
“It involves kids who either have cancer or had cancer, and it’s a place where they can just have fun and forget about everything,” he said.
Mancuso wants to make the most of his experience with cancer by spreading awareness of the disease and the bone marrow donor program. He met his donor, Sarah, in 2009.
“I want people to get a better understanding of what cancer and a transplant is,” he said, encouraging anyone interested in becoming a bone marrow donor to be certain of the decision.
“I don’t want people to sign up just because they think signing up will do something … before they sign up, I want them to have it already set straight that they want to do it.”