The Ukrainian war wasn’t the worst thing to hit the Negodiuk family. Just two days earlier, they had been hit by an even bigger bomb — their child, two-year-old Mark, was diagnosed with a pediatric brain tumor.
Bad News, and More Bad News
The timing couldn’t have been worse. The hospital in Kiev was being evacuated, so the operation Mark needed to remove the tumor couldn’t be performed. Only one doctor could perform this life-saving operation, and he lived in Uzhgorod, a small city on the border of Hungary.
In normal circumstances, it was a 10-hour drive to Uzhgorod. As war ravaged the country, it took more than a day. And once they arrived, they had to huddle in a basement to stay safe.
There, the surgery was successfully performed, but with the laboratories in Ukraine closed, there was no pathology to tell them whether the tumor was malignant. They had to wait for it to be taken through Germany to a laboratory in Italy.
When the report finally arrived, it wasn’t good. Mark needed treatment. Treatment that was no longer available in their native Ukraine.
In February 2022, through the gifts of friends and organizations, the Negodiuks found their way to Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York. They were able to find an apartment in Brooklyn, but living in a foreign country, facing expensive cancer treatments, they were struggling to manage it all.
Finally, in November, an IronMatt board member was introduced to the family. Their application for financial assistance was submitted by their social worker, and IronMatt took over their rent payments.
Looking to the Future
Mark’s treatments are complete now. The tumor was large, about four inches in diameter, going from his brain to his spine. Mark’s neck was severely weakened by the treatments, leaving him in a neck brace. But as of October 2023, his scans show that he is cancer free.
Mark’s father, Dima, told their story at the 2023 IronMatt gala, saying, “Thank you. We are grateful to everyone for every second we can spend with our son. And we pray to God that his neck will stabilize in the nearest months. It has been a long and difficult journey and we are so grateful to IronMatt. We are so grateful that in the hardest period of our life, you were with us.”
IronMatt provides financial assistance to qualified families across the United States. In 2022, they paid the expenses of 246 families from 40 states, totaling $630,000.
This support makes all the difference for families battling a pediatric brain tumor. Not only does it lighten their financial burden, it helps them know they aren’t alone.
As Dima said at the Gala, “To everyone who donated, thank you so much. And in the end, I want to say that no family has to face childhood cancer alone. Thank you. One more time.”