Each year WCCO picks a different child to feature, and this year WCCO chose 9-year-old Lillia from Monticello.
Lillia’s father, Alex Iacono, has kept a running tally during what has been a very long year-and-a-half, counting seven different surgeries and 30 radiation treatments.
In October 2015, doctors found a mass on his then 8-year-old’ daughter’s brain. He sat waiting for 10 hours as surgeons worked to remove it.
“That was the longest day of my life. It was terrifying,” Alex said.
But that’s just where Lillia’s journey began.
It went on to include 51 physical therapy sessions and 34 occupational therapy sessions, by Alex’s count. Lillia had to relearn how to walk, how to eat and even how to go to the bathroom.
Through it all, she kept a joking, smiling attitude even when she started losing her hair. She found a way to make it fun.
Finally, after nearly a year of treatment — 184 days on a feeding tube and 11 spinal taps, Alex reports — came some good news. Last fall, doctors told Alex and Nina, Lillia was cancer free.
Asked what that felt like, Alex said, “Being able to breathe.”
As of now, Lillia is more than three months cancer free. After taking as much as 16 medications a day, she doesn’t have to take any right now.
A Wish Come True
Lillia’s wish was to go to Atlantis in the Bahamas, and WCCO viewers had a hand in helping her out through donations of millions of airline miles.
On Tuesday morning, she followed a series of clues and challenges around the Mall of America to find out if her wish would come true.