Massimo Orione is an inspiring business owner and leukaemia survivor that uses running as a way to give back to charity; this is his story.
Cape Town, South Africa – Running is within its own right a valuable sport. But when you’re able to combine your passion with greater purpose, you add a distinctive value and irreplaceable meaning to your running.
Leukaemia survivor and restaurant owner Massimo Orione, 56, explains how running for charity altered his perception of life and business dynamic.
“We are currently supporting more than ten different charities by donating a few Rands when making good sales on certain dishes. In addition to this, we have given away more than 500 pizzas to those in need,” says Massimo, a restaurant owner of Massimo’s Pizzeria in Hout Bay, Cape Town.
He went further on to say that at age 42, he was diagnosed with a rare blood disease, namely Polycythaemia Vera. According to Massimo, the treatment was a huge adaptation and no walk in the park.
“I’d have a half litre of blood taken from my veins due to the bone marrow over producing blood; causing it to become very thick. Along with this treatment, I required daily injections of Interferon, as well as a light dose of Chemotherapy,” explains Massimo, who was later told by Doctors that there is a remote chance of the treatment developing into Leukaemia.
Irrespective of his critical medical history, Massimo is an enthusiastic runner who continues to inspire by running for a few good courses: namely, the Sunflower Fund – whose main aim is to support, urge and recruit stem cell donors in South Africa.
“They played a crucial role in my life when I found out I needed a bone marrow transplant. I could relate and understand the urgent need for stem cell donors.
In 2012, I fell extremely ill and after numerous back and forth consultations with Doctors, it was confirmed that I would need a transplant within the next seven months. The transplant took place in 2013 in Genova, Italy. The donor, who is also my dear sister, was 100% compatible as a potential donor – I immediately flew to Italy while placing business on hold for ten months,” reiterates Massimo, who describes his return to South Africa after the transplant, as a “new life free of illness”.
While he struggles to strike a balance between running a restaurant and well… actual running – he has improvised with a treadmill in his restaurant, enabling him to train at least two and a half hours every day.
This year, he will be participating in his first Two Oceans Marathon, taking place on 20 April, in which he will be running the 21 km: “All proceeds raised from the restaurant will be going towards the Cape Kidney Association,” confirms Massimo.
In 2017, he so graciously accepted to be part of the Transplant Games in Port Elizabeth – calling for all those requiring life-threatening transplants. Here he landed a whopping personal best (PB) of 25:03 minutes, reaching second place in the 5000-meter run.
“I am grateful for a second chance – or shall I say a chance for a second life? A strong support structure is crucial when you’re an ill person. My family was extremely supportive with the whole transplant saga – it was a long, hard journey and everyone close to me was as deeply affected as I was… and so, I use my running to demonstrate that there’s always hope.”