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Friday
Apr142017

Baby, mom and grandpa fight life-threatening illnesses at once

Lucy Eliopulos(CHICAGO) -- While undergoing cancer treatments, one mom of three has been coping with two family members fighting for their lives.

Lucy Eliopulos, 37, of Illinois, was diagnosed with brain cancer in November 2016, just two months before her newborn son George developed a deadly respiratory infection. Months earlier, her father, Jim Mandros, received news that his brain cancer had returned after 10 years.

"[My dad and I] were at the appointment with Dr. Prabhu -- I was pregnant and he kept saying, 'I don't want to operate on your father because he has a grand-baby coming,'" Eliopulos told ABC News Friday. "He gave me so much attention and little did we know that three months later, he'd be operating on me."

Eliopulos said she experienced double vision prior to giving birth, prompting doctors to perform an MRI on Oct. 28 -- the day after George was born.

Eliopulos was diagnosed with astrocytoma -- a grade III brain tumor. She underwent removal surgery on Nov. 23, and completed chemotherapy and radiation Feb. 14. She is now undergoing maintenance chemo, she said.

While Eliopulos was receiving treatment, her son George, now 5 months old, was admitted to the same hospital for a cold turned bad. He was soon diagnosed with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which nearly took his life three times.

George's doctor, Dr. Astha Sharma of the pediatric intensive care unit at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, told ABC News that the boy has recovered after two months in and out of the hospital.

"He finished his rehab and is now enjoying time with his family at home," Sharma said. "[ARDS], it's an infection that can affect both children and adults and it is an overwhelming infection of the lungs where the lungs fill with fluid. The lungs become inflamed and the inflammation does not allow the lungs to deliver oxygen to the body. Oxygen is key for the body to survive. If you are not able to get oxygen to the body then all of the organs can die."

With help from a ventilator and antibiotics, George was released from Loyola. And despite his once serious condition, Sharma said the Eliopulos did not give up on their child.

"I think that when you have a child that's this sick it can pull a lot of families apart," Sharma said. "This illness along the illness Lucy, George's mom, had, it actually drew them together. Their spirit is very inspiring to the core. No matter what happened to George, they always remained very positive."

Mandros, Eliopulos' father, agreed:

"I don't know where she's getting the strength from," Mandros told ABC News of his daughter. "She's been a rock star, I tell you. [I] cry still, but she stays strong. Lucy's tumor is much worse than mine. I wish I could take her tumor and put it in my head."

Mandros is fighting brain cancer like Eliopulos, for the second time in a decade. He received a biopsy in August, he said.

Mandros and his daughter share the same neurosurgeon, oncologist and radiologist.

"We have a good team that's taking care of them," neurosurgeon Dr. Vikram Prabhu told ABC News. "... There are not many families that can get through what they've been through. They are the true heroes and it's been a privilege to care for them."

Mandros, who has 19 grandchildren and No. 20 on the way, said he will not undergo surgery because now, he wants to be there for Eliopulos.

Mandros is currently going through chemo and has five more cycles left.

After father and daughter complete treatments, Eliopulos hopes to "be a family again."

"I'm very happy that George is home with us because that was the hardest part for us," she said. "As far as the cancer goes, my dad and I both have to get follow-up scans and I'm hoping we'll never have to go through this again. These last five months, we haven't been able to be a family. ... I'm hoping we move on from this and just live."

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