Hope's Heartbeat: After cancer diagnosis and surrogacy, family now fights for research

ByBrian Taff, Nick Iadonisi, and Heather Grubola WPVI logo
Thursday, April 18, 2024
After cancer diagnosis and surrogacy, family now fights for research
Hope's Heartbeat: After cancer diagnosis and surrogacy, family now fights for research

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Meet a couple whose whole world changed at precisely the wrong moment.

But now their fighting spirit is entering a new ring.

In 2017, newlyweds Erin and Joey D'Avanzo, of Chester County, were anxiously awaiting a bright future, hoping to expand their family. But when they returned from their honeymoon, they had to prepare for something they never expected.

"I was having some issues. I went to the doctors and we found out that I had stage 1B2 cervical cancer," Erin said. "So from there, I had to go on a treatment plan. I did three rounds of chemotherapy and then it ended with a hysterectomy. So then we knew right from then that I wasn't going to be able to carry a baby. I got some eggs taken out and then we took a pause from there."

When Erin was cancer-free, a hurdle was surpassed triumphantly. Yet they were still so far away from their dream of bringing new life into the world.

"When you would ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I would tell you 'mom' as a kid. So it was like, why me? Now everybody around you is getting pregnant, all your friends are getting pregnant. I can't really relate," she said.

But they didn't give up. They found a lovely surrogate from Buffalo, New York, who went on to carry their child.

"We had a phone call with them, and the first phone call we both were like, 'That's her. We want her to carry our baby.' She's amazing," said Erin.

And for all the trials they endured, a serendipitous gift was received when Frankie entered the world on Erin's 33rd birthday last year.

"Our journey was very different, but I actually wouldn't trade it for the world now that we went through it all," she said. "All the years of wanting a baby and waiting for a baby, and then he was finally here and I was just beyond words."

Overwhelmed with gratitude, the couple looked for a way to give back. They found that opportunity for Joey, who is participating in an event held in Philadelphia by "Haymakers for Hope."

"It would be great if there was a way that we could pay this forward to one of my closest friends. He had signed up for this boxing match. It's called Haymakers for Hope. And what this event does is they aim to raise awareness and money for knocking out cancer," Joey said.

Joey signed up as a boxer and has since raised over $7,500 that will go towards research for cancer. He's been getting his gloves on at Knockout Boxing and Fitness in Newark, Delaware. All of this leading up to the event on April 24.

"The number one thing is this is all for my wife, just as a way to kind of honor what she went through. As I always say, she had the toughest fight, just like any other cancer patient and other people that have diseases that can really disrupt her life. So seeing her go through all those steps, the chemo, then the surgery, and just how she handled it with grace and strength, for me -- now it's my turn to get in the ring."

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