Pinay Disney star surprises Pinoy toddler with cancer

By Lenn Almadin-Thornhill, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

NEW YORK CITY – RJ Sy was only three years old when he was diagnosed with stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma. He was an active kid trying to learn how to ride a bike. But the disease left every part of his little body hurting. He could barely stand up. The tumor has spread to his lymph nodes and other parts of his body. According to Mayo Clinic, it is not clear what causes the initial genetic mutation that leads to neuroblastoma.

“Since that day that they told me he has cancer, I could never say it. It’s too tough. Who deserves that word? Not my son. He’s only three,” expressed his mother, Cheely Ann.

Disney Channel star Anna Maria Perez de Tagle knows RJ’s struggle because her own cousin beat the same cancer 18 years ago. She surprised RJ and his family recently and gave them hope and support.

She shared, “I actually have never met a Filipino American, besides my cousin, who is going through neuroblastoma so this is actually very hard for me and I’m trying to stay positive because I don’t want to show him my emotions or else it will be a little weird.”

Perez De Tagle believes RJ will beat this cancer too. She said, “It breaks my heart to know that at such a young age, kids are fighting to live.”

Marisse Panlillio, Anna Maria’s aunt, was the one who requested the surprise visit at the Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan. Panlillio also designed a shirt to sell to raise funds for RJ which can be purchased at

Cheely Ann said that despite their situation, they feel blessed and could only thank everyone for all the support and help they have received.

She said, “I thought I was always strong for having three children. I thought it was the measurement of a woman’s strength but it’s not. Once you watch your kid fight for his life you don’t know where your strength is coming from, where you’re pulling it from. All of a sudden, it’s just there.”

According to the American Cancer Society, neuroblastoma accounts for about six percent of all cancers in children. The survival rate varies depending on levels of risks.

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  • Cheely Ann Sy
    25 January 2015 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    Thank you all so much for the support.and prayers. If you wish to follow RJ’s story as we battle with Neuroblastoma, please visit and like his facebook page: