“Roman Reigns”: 2-year-old receives a heart, beats cancer

Roman DiLeo with his parents Ashley and Tony. (June 4, 20240

CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — He’s not even two years old, but a little boy from Cedar Springs has been through more than most people see in a lifetime.

Roman DeLio wasn’t named after WWE wrestler Roman Reigns, but his parents and doctors at CS Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor know he has the strength of a six-time World Wrestling Entertainment champion – and then some.

“She said, ‘Roman,’ and I thought, ‘Wrestler?’ He’s a strong guy. I like this. I have a boy. I want to have a strong name,” Tony DiLeo recalled.

Even before he was born, Roman DeLio was fighting for his life. It’s hard to imagine because the little boy is bursting with energy and life.

“When we found out there was something wrong with his heart, the cardiologist we were working with in Grand Rapids commented that Roman didn’t seem to care about any of our concerns. And not listening to anything we say,” Ashley DiLeo said.

Roman’s heart defect was detected already in the 25th week of pregnancy. Ashley and her husband Tony DiLeo traveled to Ann Arbor to give birth to Roman at CS Mott Children’s Hospital. He was taken away by specialists immediately after birth.

Tony remembers it being intense.

“It was a lot of emotion, but we stayed in the moment and did what we had to do to get through every second,” Ashley said.

It’s this state of mind, vibe and approach to life that Tony and Ashley share that helped them survive Roman’s birth and everything that’s happened since.

“From day one, we decided, hey, this is what it is. Control what we can control, stay positive and think that something good will happen,” said Tony DiLeo.

Roman needed a new heart, so Ashley and Tony moved into Ronald McDonald’s house in Ann Arbor, waiting for this day. That day came when Roman was not yet six months old. That day, someone’s loss became a chance for life for Roman: a new tiny heart implanted in Roman’s tiny body.

This is where this happy story should end. But Roman’s fight isn’t over yet.

“The transplant team does a very good job of preparing you for the good, the bad and the ugly,” Ashley said.

Roman was diagnosed with post-transplant lymphoma.

This warrior will have to fight again. But Roman once again surprised all the doctors and his parents.

“His first round of chemo went from being physically sick, he finished the chemo we put him in the car, he was screaming, he was happy and he was playing with his toys,” Tony said.

Which brings us to today, just a few days away from his second birthday.

“The world is his oyster,” Ashley said.

We are told that Roman is always energetic. And he’ll need it to keep up with his new little sister this fall.

With a new cancer and heart survivor, it’s safe to say, “Roman Reigns.”