From July 2007 through June 2008, Corporal Anthony Sanza was deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was a sniper attached to the 1st Marine Division. He brought home stories that would impress and amaze Ashley, the woman he married on September 4, 2010. He also brought home a very rare form of cancer.
When he first returned stateside, Anthony was being treated for post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, hearing loss and a variety of physical injuries to his back, knees, shoulders and ankle. Then came the stomach pains.
Beginning in late 2008 and for nearly three years, Anthony was being seen by doctors for stomach pain issues. October 2011 was a bittersweet month. Anthony and his wife celebrated their daughter Emma’s first birthday, but health issues were clearly getting worse.
Two months later, Anthony was diagnosed with stage 4 adenocarcinoma of an unknown primary, which means that his cancer was found in one or more metastatic sites but the primary site is unknown. He was told he had about 8 months to live. Shortly thereafter the diagnosis was change to metastatic carcinoma of an unknown primary. Shortly after that, he was told he has a mutated form of basal cell cancer.
In June 2013, Anthony began aggressive treatment at Cancer Treatment Center of America in Arizona. While he’s happy with the care he is getting there, traveling from his home in California to Arizona for treatment and back again isn’t always easy.
The Semper Fi Fund is supporting Anthony and his family with grants so his wife can miss work and be with him during treatments. We’ve provided assistance to cover childcare costs while Anthony goes to his appointments, gas cards to defray the costs of travel, food gift cards so Anthony and Ashley can eat out when they’re too tired to cook and store gift cards so they can purchase the comfort items Anthony needs. We’ve given him an iPad, which makes communication with family and friends easier and provides entertainment during treatment. Perhaps most important of all, we’ve given Anthony a good-quality bed so that he can get the best night’s sleep possible during this time when healing rest is so critical.
“If not for your help,” Anthony told us, “I wouldn’t be doing so good and we wouldn’t have a roof over our heads and food on the table.”
In July 2013, Anthony received another heartbreaking diagnosis: He was found to have desmoplasia, which is characterized by small round cell tumors. The prognosis for this type of cancer is not good: Anthony has a 20 percent chance of survival. Doctors are aggressively trying to shrink the many tumors in Anthony’s body. If all goes well, they could perform surgery in about 6 months to remove the tumors. Even with successful surgery, though, they will still need to aggressively treat whatever cancer remains behind.
The hearts of everyone at the Semper Fi Fund go out to Anthony, his family and his friends. We salute his service to our country, we’re honored and humbled to be able to support him during this time and we’re proud of his determination to fight this latest battle with everything he has.
“Thank you,” he told us recently. “I won’t give up. I promise. I will never quit or leave a man behind. I swear.”