The Celia Cosentino Family
The Celia Cosentino Family Story

Celia Cosentino is a kind, compassionate, generous, and sensitive young lady. At age 5, when her mom Sara asked her what she wanted for her birthday, Celia responded that she wanted two of something so that her big sister could have one as well. Never one to demand attention, it took her family longer than expected to notice when she began to show signs of illness.

During the summer of 2018, when Celia was nine, she began to feel unlike herself, losing her appetite, feeling very tired, and complaining of constant headaches. As she grew progressively worse, her family took her to her pediatrician repeatedly, where they treated her for gastrointestinal issues. She was able to schedule an appointment with Pediatric GI Specialists at Hershey, but it wouldn’t be until January (five months away). “I had no idea how Celia would make it that long without relief,” Sara explained, “She was at the point where she couldn’t go a day without vomiting and could barely walk around the block without feeling like she was going to fall over.” On August 15, the Cosentino Family decided to pack an overnight bag and take her to the emergency room. “We weren’t leaving until someone found out what this was,” her mom said.

Even though Celia had collapsed in the parking lot of the emergency room, they attempted to discharge her after running multiple tests, chalking it up once more to a GI Issue. Frustrated, Celia’s mom asked if she could at least have some Tylenol for the drive home for her terrible headache. This struck the doctor, who took Celia back for a CT scan. It was then that a mass in her brain was found, and Celia was immediately admitted to the PICU for treatment, where she would stay for fifteen days. Sara remembers how long that hospital stay felt, not realizing that those fifteen days were only the beginning.

During their stay, an oncologist came to speak with the Cosentino Family, which Sara didn’t understand at first. It was at this point that the family found out that the mass in Celia’s brain was a cancerous tumor.

Celia started treatment for cancer, a rare hybrid of tumors called CNS Ganglioneuroblastoma, on September 17, 2018. She courageously endured five cycles of a harsh 5-drug regimen of chemo, followed by three additional rounds of a higher drug dosage and three stem-cell transplants. All of this came with more complications than her family can remember.

“The side effects were harsh; she basically lived at Hershey for nine months,” Celia’s mom recounted. After thirty rounds of proton radiation at CHOP, Celia finished treatment in 2019.

Throughout her treatment, Celia’s mom noticed a change in her disposition. Usually a happy and positive girl, Celia had grown frustrated and resentful. She yelled at doctors and nurses, refused to participate in activities, and didn’t want to interact with her sister. But gradually, around her fourth round of chemo, she began to become herself once more, advocating for herself and even initiating activities. When her mom mentioned it to her, Celia simply said, “I just decided it's better to be happy than angry.”

Celia’s courage is evident through the attitude with which she approaches her treatment and recovery. She still suffers from significant hearing loss, bone density issues, lesions on her liver, and much more, and regularly undergoes additional medical procedures. “It takes courage to keep showing up,” Sara explained, “there are points where she feels like she’s supposed to be done, but then all this stuff keeps happening.”

Sara emphasizes that it is important for their family to acknowledge all of the feelings that come with cancer treatment and recovery. She wants Celia to know that it is normal to acknowledge anger and sadness in order to move forward with these emotions. “We have to own it, we have to feel it, and then we work from there”.

Today, Celia is in seventh grade, a Girl Scout, and in two advanced classes in school! She enjoys playing the violin, card games (but not board games!) with her family, and she hopes to take private tap-dancing lessons.

The Cosentino Family also looks forward to THON each year. They are paired with the THON Organization Ultimate Frisbee through the Adopt-a-Family Program, and they have also grown close to Berks Benefitting THON due to their proximity!

“Four Diamonds is huge because they paid all our bills and still are,” said Sara. In addition to the financial support, something that has been incredibly important to Celia’s recovery has been the music therapy provided by Four Diamonds. Sara feels that the challenges that continue to face survivors throughout their recovery process are often overlooked, and she is grateful that Four Diamonds is still supporting Celia and their family during this period.

When asked to describe her favorite thing about THON, Sara said, “People tell you that there are no words to describe it, and before I got to THON, I didn’t believe it, but there really are no words. It completely restores my faith in humanity to see all these college kids here for one cause – and that cause is people like us.”