In April of 2014, Little Joey Fabus started complaining about having double vision. After visits to an eye doctor and an eye specialist, an MRI was scheduled to hopefully rule out any serious problems. Joey’s parents, David and Cindy, and the doctors were hoping that Joey had a lazy eye that could be easily repaired with surgery.
On May 15, 2014, an MRI was done. David, Cindy and Joey left the MRI center hoping to get results within a few days. When a call came in from a doctor at 5:00 that afternoon telling Cindy they had to take Joey to the hospital as soon as possible, their hearts sank because they knew something was seriously wrong. Little did they know that they would be told that Joey was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). David and Cindy were devastated by the news. They were told that there is no cure and that Joey had between 9 and 12 months to live. They previously lost a 15 month old daughter to complications of a kidney disease. How could this be happening again? Their world was turned upside down in a matter of minutes. They were sent on an emotional roller coaster that does not have a happy ending.
Joey had radiation treatments to try to shrink the tumor and was placed in a vaccine study that could also possibly help slow the tumor growth. He was placed on steroids, but effects of the steroids were very harsh. They caused him to gain weight, lose muscle strength, among other side effects. His frail body couldn’t handle this anymore so they removed him from the vaccine study and steroids in order to try another drug they hoped would improve improve his quality of life for the time he had remaining.
Throughout this journey, Joey had been in and out of the hospital for several complications, including surgery to place a shunt in his brain and an infection that needed medical attention. Joey was required to see his doctors at least every 3 weeks and already had numerous MRIs performed to evaluate the tumor and a number of needles to test his blood.
Joey’s lifelong dream was to become a Police Officer. On June 24, 2014, with the help of a wonderful Police Officer and dear friend of Joey’s, Tom Rigatti, Joey was officially sworn in as by Judge Ron Arnoni and became the youngest Bethel Park Police Officer known. Mayor Jack Allen and the Bethel Park municipality officially named June 24th as Joey Fabus Day. The City of Pittsburgh also named August 29, 2014 as Joey Fabus Day in the City.
Since he was born, Joey was always smiling and was always very happy. He was truly kind and polite to everybody he met. Throughout it all, despite his medical treatments, setbacks and the horrible effects of steroids, Joey continued to smile. He also never gave up on getting better and beating his disease.
Joey’s parents did everything they could to see that the last remaining days of Joey’s life would be the greatest. Joey became a commander for the day at the 171st Air Refueling Wing where his sister was stationed. Joey joined the Pittsburgh Police department as commander for a day where he visited the Special Deployment Division and participated with the Bomb Squad, Swat team, Firing range, River Patrol and visited new recruits at the Police Academy.
Joey visited the Zoo, Aviary and Science center where had tons of fun. He threw out the first pitch at the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game where Joey also received an official County Sheriff Police car that he drove around the field. Joey met 3rd baseman Pedro Alverez who told Joey he would try to hit a home run for him. On his first at-bat, Pedro hit a home run to center field. Joey received numerous honors for his bravery and was named a lifelong member of the Borough’s and Townships Police association.
Unfortunately, on January 21st 2015, at the age of 8 years old, Joey passed away. He joined his sister, Hannah, who had passed away in 1997 at 15 months old and was undoubtedly waiting for him with open arms.
He is and will always be the strongest and bravest child we’ve ever known.
The Joey Fabus Childhood Cancer Foundation began in honor of Joey to let the world know what a great and kind person he was, how his smile changed the lives of many people who never even met him, and how his life, and his death will never be forgotten.
We want the world to know about Joey and about every child with DIPG!
The Foundation’s other purpose is to raise enough funds through several fundraisers throughout the year. Those funds will be donated to successful DIPG research facilities around the world in the hopes that one day they will find a better treatment, and possibly a cure, for this awful disease. We also plan to help other families affected by this disease.
Joey’s legacy will always live on, and we will forever be Joey Strong!
Submitted by Joey’s Parents, Cindy and David Fabus.