A three-year-old girl who was photographed as a baby receiving a kiss from Pope Francis has completely recovered from a brain tumour.
Gianna Masciantonio met the Pope alongside her family when she was a one-year-old and had just been diagnosed with a fatal brain tumour.
Her parents say they were planning her funeral when she was raised from crowds by a Swiss Guard after the Pontiff stopped his motorcade during a parade in Philadelphia, US, in 2015.
Gianna had been diagnosed just weeks after being born when she failed a hearing test and doctors investigated.
They discovered the newborn had a massive tumor on her brain stem that was inoperable.
Doctors told Kristen and Joey Masciantonio to put their baby girl in hospice care and prepare for her death, giving her weeks to live.
Without knowing, the Pope’s kiss was planted just centimetres from Gianna’s brain tumour.
The couple took Gianna to the crowd that day after getting the green light from her doctor.
Two months later, the family received a life-changing call from Ira Dunkel, a specialist from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who had discovered cysts forming around Gianna’s brain tumour.
A biopsy revealed that the tumour was not cancer but Juvenile Xanthogranuloma, a rare blood disorder that affects one in 10 million children.
After 15 months of intensive chemotherapy, the baby’s tumour began to shrink.
‘We had watched Gianna die her first year of life, but now she’s come to life,’ Kristen told Catholic news site Aleteia at the time.
‘Gianna’s life is a miracle,’ she added. ‘Pope Francis kissing her is God’s way of showing he has been with us through this journey and is listening to our prayers.’
Two years later, the tumor has completely disappeared and Gianna is preparing to attend preschool.
‘Seeing your kid run around and seeing her doing the things she’s doing with what they told us from the beginning is amazing,’ Joey recently told CBS Philadelphia.
They started a charity For the Love of Grace Foundation, to raise money for other children battling brain tumours.
Last week Gianna and her parents returned to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she received treatment, to donate $50,000 (£39,245).
‘This place is so special to us in our heart,’ Joey said.
‘What they did for Gianna is something for us that no amount of money could ever repay, but we just want to help the kids.’