"You have stage four brain cancer."
That's what doctors told Suzanne Ciani when she went to the emergency room for her headaches in the fall of 2011.
Doctors removed one mass, only to have it return with two others a few months later.
"In June they removed the original and the third, the second tumor is inoperable," son Chris Ciani of Land O' Lakes said. "Since her last surgery she has lost almost all sight and her short-term memory is nonexistent. She has been on chemo and radiation since."
Chris' dad, John Ciani runs the popular Odessa Farmer's Market, whose harvests are regularly featured on Westchase Patch.
But Suzanne's a warrior. And with the help of her family, she's spawned a battle beyond her own in an effort to help others fighting for their lives.
"In the spring of 2012 my mom spoke to my siblings and I about helping others who have brain cancer and raising money for brain cancer research," Chris Ciani said.
He jumped right in, and the Suzanne Ciani Brain Cancer Foundation was born. The goal is to raise money for research and promote awareness of the disease, which took the lives of more than 13,000 Americans in 2012.
The foundation hosted its first fundraising event in May.
"It wasn't the most organized thing, but it was a way to start getting the word out," he said. It took about a month to get the paperwork done to apply for nonprofit status. That application is still pending with the state, but they're getting there, Chris Ciani said.
In the meantime, he launched a monthly food truck rally in Lutz, with proceeds benefitting a brain cancer research fund at Moffit Cancer Center, Chris Ciani said.
The rally is held on the first Friday monthly at Holy Trinity Church of Lutz, 20735 Leonard Road.
The foundation also will have one large event per quarter starting soon, he said. Planning for a 5K run is in the works; he is looking for a location and will need plenty of volunteers for that.
"Whatever we can do to raise money, that's what we're going to do," Chris Ciani said.
Chris Ciani runs the foundation on his own in his spare time. The father of two also works in South Tampa full time and coaches basketball at the Land O' Lakes Recreation Complex.
It's a lot of work to put everything together, but he is fiercely passionate about the cause.
Helping others was something he always wanted to do, Chris Ciani said. Before his mother's diagnosis, he and his wife went through some troubling times in 2008.
"Now that I'm back on my feet, I want to help other people," he said.
The information he's uncovered and the statistics he's found since diving into the research have fueled his fire.
Right now the foundation is raising money for research and an awareness campaign only, but he also would like to eventually be able to help brain cancer patients with their expenses, Chris Ciani said. The foundation has to get to a certain financial threshold for that to happen, he said.
"Later this year the foundation will be launching a brain cancer research initiative program. This will be an ongoing fundraising event for brain cancer research that we will try to spread worldwide," he said. "We need to find a cure sooner than later and it will take us all to make it happen."
As for his mom, Chris Ciani said it's a waiting game right now. The inoperable tumor isn't growing, but unfortunately a fourth tumor was discovered recently.
He celebrated his 30th birthday with Suzanne at his side recently, something he said was all he could ask for.
"Even though she can't remember the moments now, we can and we always will," Chris Ciani said.
The foundation needs volunteers and business sponsors. Check out this story for how you can help.