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The Unstoppable Philip Lippolis: Middle School Student Perseveres through Leukemia Treatment By Erin Foley and Renee Abbott

Doctors diagnosed six-year-old Philip Lippolis with acute lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer that starts in the patient’s bone marrow and can easily spread to other organs, on Nov. 19, 2013. After four years of chemotherapy at Mass General Hospital, he relapsed in January of 2017 and received a bone marrow transplant. After the bone marrow transplant, he was in radiation and chemotherapy for two years. In November, he relapsed again and is currently undergoing a Car-T cell transplant, a process where his cells are taken out and repaired to better fight leukemia cells before being put back in. So far, the treatment has been working and he officially returned to Bird Middle school on March 15.

“He thinks about people more than he does himself. If somebody is teasing somebody else at school, he sticks up for them. He’s a great kid,” Lippolis' grandmother Jean Allen said.

“He perseveres through everything. He still keeps moving ahead—he wants to learn and do everything the kids are doing at school,” Cheryl Ivatts, Lippolis' former teacher, said.

Lippolis shows how important family is to him by playing with his younger cousin Maxine daily. Lippolis enjoys music class at school, seeing his friends and hanging out with his family. Some kids dislike the everyday burden of going to school; however, Lippolis views it as a great privilege and opportunity. Education is an important part of Lippolis’ life, and despite missing some years of school due to his illness, he still strives for excellence in his school work. In the future, he hopes to become a nurse or doctor.

Timeline of Philip's medical history

One way he furthers his education is by being privately tutored by Cheryl Ivatts for about four hours per week. Despite missing months of school, he still keeps up with his school work and works hard to complete his assignments. In fourth grade, after his bone marrow transplant, he was unable to go to school for a year and was upset because he knew he would miss out on schoolwork and seeing his friends. To solve this problem, Ivatts began carrying around an iPad with Lippolis on FaceTime to allow him to be a part of the class. Later, through Facebook connections, a company called Grahamtastic made a custom robot for Lippolis, called the "Philbot." This robot would go around the school with Lippolis on the screen, so he could keep up with school while recovering. The Philbot not only allowed Lippolis to develop socially and academically, but it also enabled the class to see the community coming together for such a great cause.

“These kids can now see that anything can be done. They saw from beginning to end an amazing project take place,” Ivatts said.

As a sixth grader at Bird Middle School, he enjoys playing the keyboard in his music class. His favorite book is "Red Midnight," a historical fiction novel. And although he is not involved in many extracurricular activities, he loves to hang out with his friends as much as possible; however, through his recovery, it has been hard to meet with people outside of school.

“I’m so glad I can hang out with my friends again now that I am back in school,” Lippolis said.

Lippolis not only perseveres through school and health struggles, he perseveres through social situations and always strives to do the right thing. Lippolis continually stays kind to his peers whether in or out of school. He recently attended a fundraiser for a fellow child with cancer to support him and understands how important it is to be there for one another in hard times.

“He thinks about people more than he does himself. If somebody is teasing somebody else at school, he sticks up for them. He’s a great kid,” Lippolis' grandmother Jean Allen said.

Through his entire journey with cancer, Lippolis has not only kept hope but also kept his sense of humor. Ivatts and Allen both describe Lippolis as an funny, energetic, outgoing child. When asked what he would say to say to cancer right now, he thought for a moment, smiled, and said, “I don’t think I’m allowed to say what I think.”

“I’m so glad I can hang out with my friends again now that I am back in school,” Lippolis said.

The family is extremely appreciative for all of the support Lippolis has received from the community and schools. Over the years, various sports teams including Bruins and Red Sox players have visited Lippolis. Those interested in donating to Lippolis can visit his GoFundMe at: https://www.gofundme.com/Lippolis-s-fight-kicking-Cancer-s-butt-one-day-at-a-time

For anyone else who is going through something like Lippolis and in need of his extraordinary strength, he has one message: “Stay strong and never give up.”

Walpole Police Department officers visited Lippolis while at the hospital (Photos/ Jean Allen).

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