Cancer sucks. But pediatric cancer? It’s a totally different beast. According to the National Cancer Institute, it’s estimated that more than 15,000 kids aged 0 to 19 were diagnosed with cancer in 2017.
It takes a village to conquer cancer, but it takes everything a person has to overcome and beat cancer. When that person is six years old, though? That’s truly remarkable.
Gio Toribio was diagnosed with Stage 3 anaplastic large cell lymphoma in August 2016 when he was only four. After rounds of high-dose chemotherapy, Toribio finished his treatments and beat cancer in January of last year.
When doctors discovered Gio’s cancer, they also found that he has McCune-Albright syndrome, which makes his bones so brittle that he will be unable to play any contact sports.
Cancer? McCune-Albright? Yeah, right. Good luck stopping Gio from defying the odds.
At the New York Jets‘ Green and White scrimmage at Rutgers University, Gio took a handoff left, bobbed and weaved, and made more than a few Jets defenders look silly in route to his first NFL touchdown.
If the Jets are Gio’s favorite team, then his favorite player is third-year linebacker Darron Lee. After meeting in 2017, the two and their families have become close friends.
“Darron chose to be a part of Gio’s life,” Lauren Toribio, Gio’s mother, said in an interview. “He didn’t have to be. He chose to accept him in his family. He genuinely loves him, and Gio loves him back. It’s amazing to watch.”
The former Ohio State Buckeyes outside linebacker, very simply, called like it is: Toribio is the NFL player’s hero.
The Jets have been no stranger to heartfelt moments this training camp, which has included safety Jamal Adams making one fan’s entire year just by being himself.
New York is embattled in a three-quarterback carousel trying to find the best starter for the team between Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold, but at least they’re proving that some things are bigger than football.
Once again, cancer can be left in the dust, and all it took was the giant heart of a six-year-old kid to remind us of that.