Two months to live.
Say that to yourself – two months. What comes to mind? Watching the sun rise above the horizon? Your dad teaching you how to ride a bike? Friends roaring with laughter at something stupid you did on the camping trip you make a point to take every year?
Dread? Despair? Anger, sadness, guilt….the roller coaster ride of emotions doesn’t fit neatly into a sentence. Those four little words are heard by many every day and five years ago, Rome Torti heard them too.
The name of his disease is Giloblatoma Multiforme, a grade 4 malignant brain tumor. It is incurable and most people with the diagnosis don’t make it past a few weeks.
The Medical Challenge
The news came swiftly. Rome and his girlfriend Rachel had been together for three months when she began noticing oddities in his behaviour. A few visits to the doctor later and Rome was packing his bags for the hospital – a lemon sized tumour had taken up residence on his brain.
Rome had grown up obsessed with skateboarding, his passion evolving into the thing that earned him a living. A well-respected skater and photographer, he was always in the middle of the action, whether on his board or with a camera in hand, waiting to capture the perfect frame.
That zest for action and challenge proved critical when his life was threatened. Together with Rach, friends, and family, he tackled the cancer from all sides. A surgery which removed 30% of the tumour, aggressive chemotherapy, a radically healthier lifestyle coupled with an experimental treatment, and Rome was well enough to meet his son Ryder, a miracle baby conceived shortly before Rome began started his medical care.
Not Done Yet
By the time Ryder was three, the tumor had grown back and in October 2013 the family faced the challenge of figuring out their next step yet again. They settled on a risky operation that would prolong Rome’s life considerably. An Australian neurosurgeon, Dr. Charlie Teo, offered to take on the case, but the procedure wasn’t just risky – it was costly as well.
Rome and Rach, with help of long-time friend Lulu, looked into their options. Since his initial diagnosis the community had been supportive – charitable events were organized by friends, local skateboarding companies ran campaigns in his name, shops donated partial proceeds to the cause. Many people rallied to help Rome’s fight and contributed generously.
Taking this into consideration, Rome and Rach knew they had to reach beyond those who had helped already. They needed a way to connect with strangers around the world, with a hope that Rome’s journey is something many could relate to.
Charity Begins at Home…then Travels
Team Torti decided on Fundrazr. The platform worked best for what they needed to do – share their story with thousands of supporters who could sympathise with the situation and be inspired to help. Alongside the Fundrazr campaign page, they built a Facebook page marking the milestones of Rome’s story. Honest, vulnerable and extremely personal, Rome’s well-wishers around the globe were able to follow along with the successes and the pitfalls of his fight to live.
The campaign was a success. The funding poured in fast and within days, on New Years Eve 2013, they reached their staggering goal of $100 000. The procedure went well but left a few less than desirable after-effects. Rome is paralyzed on the right side of his body and has trouble speaking. He is progressing on a daily basis and his doctors are positive that he will walk again soon. Rome, Rachel and Ryder are positive too.
The Tortis are extremely touched by the experience so far. Their hope for universal kindness and understanding and their belief for the good in people has proved true. And the funds they raised, coupled with Rome’s positive attitude and unwavering strength has granted him a fighting chance.
You can continue to follow Rome’s story on his Facebook page here. Rach and Rome just celebrated their fifth anniversary, he is on his way to his recovery and if you’d like to contribute to his cause, visit his Fundrazr page.
If you’d like to start a campaign for yourself or a loved one, you may begin here.