LAKELAND, NY (WSYR-TV) - Years ago, doctors thought Sophia Gettino wouldn’t live to see her second birthday.
But on Sunday, surrounded by friends and family, she again defied the odds and celebrated her Sweet 16.
Sophia was diagnosed with pineoblastoma, a rare and deadly brain tumor.
But Sophia battled back and has been cancer free the last eight years.
"Never give up. Always have confidence and never give up," said Gettino.
"Probably one of the best days of my life. I'd have to say today is awesome. Soph's having a great time and that's probably the best part of it all," said Gettino’s father Joe.
Sophia told NewsChannel 9 that she is still thinking about what she wants to be when she “grows up.”
Camillus (WSYR-TV) -- Conventional medical experts had written her off. Her Camillus family was preparing to say goodbye to their baby girl, whose brain was riddled with a rare and deadly tumor. And yet, this Sunday, Sophia Gettino will celebrate her 16th birthday.
Doctors never thought Gettino would live to see her second birthday, let alone her 16th. Sophia had a rare brain tumor called pineoblastoma. Surgery removed the tumor, but it grew back almost overnight.
“We had hospice coming into the home to keep her comfortable, and we were preparing for her to die,” Sophia’s mom, Jenny Gettino said.
But friends of the family did some research and urged Sophia’s parents to give Sophia one last chance with a Texas-based doctor – Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski – who did pioneering work in gene-targeted cancer medicines.
“Next thing you know, they were saying you need to call a couple of people, so we called a couple people who had been to Dr. Burzynski and they said you need to simply go down there,” Sophia’s dad, Joe Gettino said.
So that’s exactly what they did – for nine weeks, followed by six to seven years of treatment with antineoplastons, a non-toxic medicine that worked a miracle.
“I'm just eternally grateful and words can't even describe it,” Sophia said.
By the age of two, the tumor had shrunk by 20 percent. At age six, she had her first clean scan and she’s been cancer free for the last eight years. Sophia, you might imagine, is a big fan of Dr. Burzynski.
“He's like my second dad. Sorry, daddy. It's true. He's like amazing,” Sophia laughed.
And so is Sophia. As she turns 16 on Sunday, she, like any other high schooler, says her career goals are shifting.
“When I was a little younger, I think you guys know this, I think I wanted to be a chef. I've gone from that to a younger kids' kind of teacher, like from elementary to pre-school teacher. Now, I'm not really sure... I've got time,” Sophia told NewsChannel 9.
Sophia’s mom and dad are inviting everyone to their daughter’s Sweet 16 birthday party. It’s this Sunday, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the Western Ranch, along State Fair Boulevard in Lakeland. It’s not a fundraiser, just a party to say thank you and to celebrate “Baby Sophia’s” special day.