WOODLAND PARK, NJ - The community is mourning the loss of Josephine “Pepa" Palman, 13, a lifelong resident who passed away June 5 after a courageous 16-month battle with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a rare and lethal childhood brain cancer.
Josephine was an 8th grade student at Memorial Middle School where she excelled both scholastically and artistically. She had a talent for pencil drawing and also loved gymnastics.
Josephine loved to spend time with her family camping, biking, hiking, and traveling. Her love of life and for people were contagious. She demonstrated that at a young age by donating her hair for cancer survivors, before ever knowing her diagnosis.
Following her diagnosis in February 2018, the community had rallied around the Palman family. Holy Cross Church, all three local school and the WP Boys & Girls held multiple fundraisers to help offset medical costs of Josephine’s treatments.
"These acts of kindness have made a difference in our journey," Josephine's mother Patricia wrote on a recent update on Josephine's GoFundMe page.
DIPG affects about 250 children annually and there is no cure. Tumors can’t be removed as cancer cells are intermixed with normal cells in the brainstem that are crucial for functions like breathing.
After her diagnosis, the family travelled to New York City for treatments and therapies before monthly trips to Monterrey, Mexico, for a chemotherapy treatment not available in the U.S. and not covered by insurance. Josephine had been hospitalized since March in New York City.
Josephine is survived by her parents Patricia Palman and Italo Palman; siblings Jonathan Gesualdi and his wife Sonia, Jessica Yip and her husband David, Jennifer Gesualdi, Justin Palman, Julia Palman, and Erica and Meghan Palman; and her grandmother, Laura Palman. Pepa was the niece of Miriam and Norma Herrera, Lanfranco and Eudair Palman, and Maria and Richard Lella; goddaughter of Denise Harlem and Gregory Gilkes; and a cousin and friend to many. She was predeceased by her grandparents Maria and Jose Herrera, and Severino Palman.
Arrangements are being handled by Aloia Funeral Home, 180 Harrison Ave., Garfield. Visiting hours are Tuesday 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. In lieu of flowers donations to help pay for the medical bills that continue to come in are requested at www.gofundme.com/josephine-the-tumor-warrior.