By Nadia Maria Smith

CS&T Staff Writer

BLUE BELL – There are no words to describe the devastation and fear that enter parents’ hearts when they hear their child has cancer.

It was no different for Ron and Nancy Shapiro when they found out that their then-2-year-old son, John, had a brain tumor. Little John had to undergo brain surgery to remove the tumor, followed by 31 days of radiation. He got sick from the treatment and his hair fell out, but the cancer went into remission and his parents sighed with relief. His prognosis looked good and as long as John remained cancer-free for the next five years, he would likely not get a brain tumor again. John had to get an MRI every three months to check for cancer and for more than a year everything seemed good.

Then, a few months ago, on one of those routine visits, the Shapiros were given additional bad news. Now 3 years old, John had another tumor in a different part of his brain, which meant that the cancer was more widespread than they had initially thought.

“Obviously the first time is devastating, but the second time is even more devastating,” Nancy Shapiro said. “All we have right now is faith to help us get through this.”

John had surgery but the doctors weren’t able to remove the tumor completely. He is about to start his third round of chemotherapy, which consists of taking an awful-tasting oral dose of chemo for 21 days. Then he will have to undergo another round of radiation treatment as well.

“John gets sick once or twice a day on the medication, but he still plays and is happy. He gives us strength to keep going and to fight and hope for the best because he is so resilient,” Shapiro said.

Ron Shapiro is inspired by his son, as he is by the many children with life-threatening diseases he has met at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Massachusetts General Hospital.

John, like the other sick children, has a “truly remarkable spirit,” he said. “John takes each day as it comes. The children are living in today, they aren’t thinking a week ahead from now, which is sometimes a good way to be.”

As parents, they do worry, but Ron Shapiro said he realizes that there is only one thing they can do and that is to surrender to God.

“We understand that things are in God’s hands and we are trusting in Him to hopefully find a cure and help John through,” he said. “We know miraculous events have happened and we’re hoping we’re fortunate enough to have one too and if it doesn’t, we’ll thank God for every day of having John in our lives.”

Whether it’s looking after one of the other four Shapiro children or making home-cooked meals for the family, the Shapiros have relied heavily on the support and prayers of family, friends and their parish community of St. Helena in Blue Bell.

Their family and friends have formed the John Shapiro Benefit Fund Committee and are planning a fundraiser to help them with the mounting medical and travel expenses. The social will be held on Saturday, Jan. 24 at St. Helena Church from 7 p.m. to midnight.

The catered event will include a DJ, silent auction with items such as romantic getaways, vacation packages and autographed sports memorabilia, including some from the Phillies’ World Series win. The night is a celebration for the gift of John, who has inspired many more lives than he’ll ever know.

“We really didn’t want the fundraiser at the beginning, but we were talked into it because people really wanted to help us out,” Ron Shapiro said. “It hasn’t been comfortable accepting assistance that people are trying to give, but our family, friends, neighbors and church community have been a huge support. I can’t even put it into words what it’s meant, but it makes us feel so very good.

“It really lets us know that there are a lot of people that care about us.”

CS&T staff writer Nadia Maria Smith may be reached at or (215) 965-4614.

The John Shapiro Fundraiser
Date: Saturday, Jan. 24
Time: 7 p.m. to midnight
Place: St. Helena Church
The Empress Room
1489 DeKalb Pike
Blue Bell, PA 19422
Ticket Prices/Donation:
$35 each (in advance)
$40 each (at the door)
Checks are to be made payable to:
“The John Shapiro Benefit Fund.”

For more information or for tickets, e-mail or call Becky O’Hanlon at 610-291-6526. If you cannot attend this fundraiser but would like to donate, please mail your contribution to:

The John Shapiro Benefit Fund
c/o Citizens Bank
1777 Sentry Park West, Bldg. #15
Blue Bell, PA 19422