Foreign exchange student battles cancer far from home

Italian teen attending Ozaukee High undergoes surgery, faces chemo with the support of Belgium host family, parents

FOREIGN EXCHANGE student Edoardo Campus (front, center), who managed a big smile despite recently being diagnosed with cancer, posed Tuesday with members of his Belgium host family (from left) Rick and Mary Kay Heinold and Brent Hoffmann, and his parents Claudio and Vittoria. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press Staff

Foreign exchange student Edoardo Campus was eagerly soaking American culture while staying with his Town of Belgium family.

His dark eyes enlarge and his face lights up when he talks about how excited he is to experience all his host country to offer.

The Italian played soccer and basketball at Ozaukee High School, likes making new friends, school dances and the atmosphere. 

“Everyone has been really kind with me,” Campus said of the school.

Campus also got to delve deeply into one part of American society he wished he wouldn’t have needed: the health care system.

On March 17, Campus developed back pain, and his host mother Mary Kay Heinold wanted to take him to the doctor.
Campus said to wait, but when the pain moved to his side and stomach two days later, he went to the hospital.

Heinold thought it might have been appendicitis, which her son Garrett had last fall right before he left for college. Kidney stones were another possibility.

The hospital did blood work and sent Campus home. A doctor later touched him near the intestines, which led to an ultrasound and CT scan.

Campus had 4-centimeter and 2-centimeter masses.

A trip to a pediatrician and then an oncologist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa led to more X-rays and a biopsy.

The results showed that Campus has stage 3 embryonal carcinoma.

It was shocking news for the young adult — he turned 18 on Saturday — his host family and his parents back home, who had been kept in the loop the entire time.

“Children’s Hospital was amazing,” Heinold said. “They Skyped the parents in on every appointment.”

Campus’ parents Claudio and Vittoria moved up a planned trip to America and flew in on April 7. They are staying with Mary Kay and Rick Heinold.

Tests showed scarring in Edoardo’s right testicle. He had surgery at Children’s Hospital to remove it on April 11.

The two masses remain. Edoardo is scheduled to undergo four cycles of aggressive chemotherapy to try to remove them. It will be five straight days of treatment, then two and a half weeks off, followed by another round of treatment.

The plan then is for Edoardo to fly home and finish the final two cycles in Rome, a one-hour flight from his home city.

The prognosis for survival is 98%, and Edoarado is even more sure than that.

“I know I’m going to make it. I’m confident,” he said.

Health insurance has been another story. Edoardo was automatically put on his exchange program’s plan, which paid for everything through surgery. It is not covering chemo.

“It’s strange for us. A completely different system,” Claudio said.

“In Italy, maybe we pay more taxes but everything is covered by national insurance. You pay, but very little.”

The Ozaukee community has stepped up to the plate. Fundraisers are in the works.

Ozaukee High School has been supportive, putting homework online or sending it home with Edoardo’s American brother Brent Hoffmann, Mary Kay said.

While the experience has been an awful shock, the timing may have been fortunate, given the quality of medical care Edoardo has received.

“With this hospital, it was probably a blessing to have it happen here,” he said.

Edoardo was already planning to become a doctor, and now he’s leaning toward studying oncology.

“The day after the biopsy, he told us that the staff at the hospital were amazing and he was surprised at the technique they used,” Claudio said.

The ordeal has also bonded the two families from different continents.

“We feel to be the same family,” Claudio said.

Through it all, Edoardo has maintained his disposition, his American dad said.

“He always has a smile on his face,” Rick Heinold said. “He doesn’t feel good sometimes, but he still gives you that smile.”

Edoardo’s other new American experiences include the weather, which received a mixed review.

“I like the snow. I’ve never seen snow before coming here, and I’ve seen a lot,” he said.

His home city of Sassari is on an island in the Mediterranean Sea and has a warm climate. Temperatures there now are higher than 70 degrees.

“I like snow but cold, that was pretty rough,” Campus said. “I miss the sea.”

Favorite American foods include eggs, bacon and steaks with barbecue sauce.

“I’m not used to it, but I love it. Everything is bigger,” he said.

To contribute to Campus’ medical costs, visit


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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