Donor Spotlight: Tony Di Cosmo

February 17, 2016 Sinai Health Foundation

“Throughout my career, I have worked as a fundraiser for other hospitals,” says Tony Di Cosmo, Vice President for Donor Relations at Sinai Health Foundation, formerly Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation. “But when a position became available at Mount Sinai, I leapt at the opportunity to give back to Mount Sinai and to play a leadership role in improving the care offered to its patients, no matter what medical needs they have.”

Tony has worked for Sinai Health Foundation for almost two years, but he has been a supporter and donor to Mount Sinai Hospital for much, much longer.

Ten years ago, Tony started feeling pain in his left shoulder. He thought he had pulled a muscle in the gym, but the pain didn’t go away. He went to his family doctor. Being thorough, his doctor ordered an X-ray that revealed a cancerous tumour, about the size of a small orange, growing on the bone in Tony’s shoulder and upper arm.

Tony was stunned by the diagnosis: a rare osteosarcoma, the same cancer that took Terry Fox’s leg, and ultimately caused his death. It had a terrifyingly low survival rate because it can spread easily, often to the lungs.

Tony was grateful to be placed in the care of Dr. Jay Wunder, surgeon-in-chief and the head of the Sarcoma Unit at Mount Sinai Hospital, and a researcher in Sinai Health System’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. Dr. Wunder had developed a new surgical technique that allows doctors to remove cancerous tissues like Tony’s without amputating the limb it’s attached to. As little as 15 years before Tony’s cancer was diagnosed, almost 100 percent of osteosarcoma surgeries were amputations. But now, thanks to Dr. Wunder’s surgical technique, the number is under five percent and the survival rate has skyrocketed.

Ten years later, Tony remains cancer-free, and is living a full and active life.

Out of gratitude for his care, he continues to give generously each year. And he also made a more unusual kind of gift: He donated the cancer tissue extracted from his shoulder to Mount Sinai’s Sarcoma Tissue Bank to help researchers develop better cancer treatments, or even a cure, for future patients.

“My experience gave me a new appreciation for how many people are touched by illness — not just me, but everyone around me,” says Tony. “Seeing the dedication of the physicians and researchers firsthand has been incredibly inspiring. As a donor and a member of the fundraising team, I’m so proud to be a part of a healthcare system that is creating better treatments and cures for our most challenging health problems, and improving and expanding the care we can all depend on.”

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