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Mark Myers

A Party for Natalie

A Quinceañera is a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday that is widely celebrated throughout Latin America. Symbolically, it marks her passage from girlhood to womanhood. It is a big deal for many young ladies, and they begin planning it when they turn fourteen. But that didn’t happen for Natalie Guzman.

Natalie had been a very healthy child until she began losing weight and sleeping more often at the age of thirteen. Her pediatrician drew blood and confirmed that her labs looked normal for her age. But her weight loss continued, and she began getting stomachaches. When she noticed bruising on her body, her doctor sent her to the emergency room for more testing. It was there that Natalie was diagnosed with leukemia – just one day before her fourteenth birthday.

“Despite knowing something was wrong, you are never ready to receive news like that.” Shared her mother, Sandra. We were devastated.”

Planning for Natalie’s Quinceañera was put on hold while she began treatment.

“My first thought was, ‘am I going to die?’” said Natalie. “I was very scared because we have family members who have passed away from cancer.”

The first round of chemotherapy eliminated 97% of her cancer. The treatment was harsh, but her body responded well to it, and she began her journey to remission. Then the pandemic hit. While she was starting to feel better, it was hard to focus on planning for her 15th birthday. With stores closed and quarantines in place, it was also difficult to shop for the traditional clothes and favors. To keep Natalie safe, her family planned a drive-by Quinceañera for her.

“Girls look forward to the party for so many years. So doing it the way we had to was like putting a dream on hold because of cancer,” explained Sandra.

Natalie continued treatment as lockdowns and quarantines ended, and when the time came for her next birthday, she was able to celebrate with a wonderful Sweet 16 party! Her family pulled out all the stops and made it a beautiful day for her. An even greater celebration happened a few months later as Natalie walked out of the hospital cancer-free.

Throughout their fight, Natalie and her family clung to their faith, especially verse 10 from Isaiah 41, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

Sandra remembers those days in the hospital and refers to CURE as hope for families diagnosed. She appreciates the meals they received and also very tangible help.

“My husband and I have a small business,” she explained. “But neither of us could work because of Natalie’s cancer treatments. CURE paid our mortgage for two months, which was a big relief. When the pandemic made our business very slow, CURE paid another mortgage payment. I’m so glad CURE was there to support our family.”

And Natalie is happy to be back in school – healthy and with a full head of hair.

“Being bald was hard on me as a teenage girl,” she said. “But my hair came back curly, and I like it!”

Nurse Nelson

She is often called “Nurse Nelson” because she will not hesitate to give instructions to her medical team. Since she is only four years old, this confidence may sound surprising. But Jeneva Nelson is the youngest of five children and is used to bossing her siblings around. At her annual visit to the pediatrician last November, her doctor pressed her stomach during the examination and felt nothing abnormal. Two weeks later, Jeneva woke up sick in the middle of the night and was in great pain in the morning. Her mother rubbed her stomach to soothe her and felt a hard knot on her right side. They went to the emergency room, where several scans, an x-ray, and an ultrasound revealed a large tumor on her kidney.

“Our doctor told us it looked like a Wilms tumor and advised us to start her on the standard treatment. That meant several rounds of chemo to shrink the tumor,” recalled Jeneva’s mother, Shauna. “But it was growing so fast that I wanted it removed. They respected my wishes and scheduled surgery a week later.”

During an eight-hour surgery, doctors removed the entire tumor and her right kidney. A biopsy confirmed it was a Wilms tumor and also showed it to have an anaplastic histology. This means that the cells’ nuclei are large and distorted, making the tumor harder to treat. Because of this finding, Jeneva had 30 weeks of chemotherapy and full stomach radiation after recovering from surgery.

“Most Wilms patients don’t have this unfavorable trait,” explained Jeneva’s father, James. “The anaplastic cells grow much faster, and there is a higher chance of recurrence after treatment is over.”

Throughout her treatment, Jeneva has been a regular fun-loving child. There are times she doesn’t feel well, but she seems to bounce right back and will give her family a thumbs-up when she’s ready to play again. Her mother describes her as resilient and strong. While they will be vigilant to monitor Jeneva after treatment, Shauna and James refuse to live in fear.

“I’m hoping and praying that this treatment works, and we have no relapses,” Shauna said. “But because of what I’ve read and been told, I won’t be surprised. That isn’t me being negative – it’s like having a spare tire in your trunk. You don’t want to have a flat, but the spare means you are prepared if it happens.”

Jeneva will have scans every three months, and her parents will be on the lookout for fevers, bumps, and any unexplained sickness. While this journey has involved many hard days, there have also been some beautiful moments.

“It’s been a sad journey, but it has also been heartwarming to receive such love from family, friends, and even strangers,” Shauna said. “CURE is an organization that has been with us from the very beginning. We have never felt that we are alone.”

Edward and Precision Medicine

Edward Page’s cancer journey started on a Saturday morning in November 2017 while his soccer team was preparing to take on another team of four-year-olds. But instead of running onto the field, Edward didn’t want to play because his belly hurt. That day his life changed forever.

“In a few hours, we went from a stomachache to a cancer diagnosis,” said Edward’s father, Andrew. “Edward had a large mass in his abdomen that had already spread to his chest and bone marrow.”

Edward was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is a pediatric cancer in which malignant cells form from immature nerve tissue. Following the standard treatment protocol, Edward began countless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, endured nine surgeries, battled through two bone marrow transplants, and entered clinical trials. Sadly, even with those extensive treatments and their awful side effects, residual cancer remained.

Both of Edward’s parents are surgeons, and his father, Andrew, specializes in abdominal cancers. As a result, Andrew not only knew the prognosis of his son’s cancer, he also understood the value of molecular testing used in precision medicine.

“Precision medicine has changed the approach for difficult to manage cancers,” Andrew explained. “The concept of targeting pathways to stop tumor growth has changed the landscape for cancer treatment, as it can be more effective and less toxic than the standard chemotherapies. Precision medicine is like shooting cancer with a sniper, as opposed to shooting the whole patient with a shotgun.”

While precision medicine has been used to diagnose and treat adult cancers for years, it is very new to children. Thanks to CURE’s investment, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta now boasts one of the nation’s leading precision medicine programs, offering this innovative treatment to children with cancer. After Edward completed years of standard treatment, which ultimately failed, he was enrolled in the program, and a sample of his tumor was sent for analysis.

“Genetic testing revealed that the relapsed cancer in his chest had a very specific mutation which was not present in the original tumor,” Andrew said. “Fortunately, the mutation has a drug that is proven to work against it.”

Watch Edward’s Story

Finally, this drug put Edward into remission. He is now cancer-free! Every day, Edward takes a pill which targets the cancer, ideally preventing recurrence. Today, he is healthy and strong and loves to spend his time outdoors. Since he had a kidney removed as part of his cancer treatment, he had to give up soccer. He now enjoys gardening and possesses a knowledge of plants well beyond that of most eight-year-olds. His family is so grateful for the opportunity to help him plant flowers.

“If it weren’t for the use of precision medicine, I am confident that Edward would not be with us today,” said Andrew. “The collaboration between Edward’s aggressive surgeon, Dr. Clifton, combined with Edward’s forward-thinking oncologist, Dr. Cash, unquestionably saved Edward’s life. Precision medicine is the way of the future, and our family is thankful for CURE’s investment in it.”

What is Precision Medicine?

In 2017, CURE made an unprecedented $4.5 million commitment to the Aflac Cancer Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to launch the Aflac Precision Medicine Program (APMP). With this award, the Aflac Cancer Center would become one of only a small handful of pediatric cancer centers nationwide able to offer this cutting-edge treatment approach to children with cancer.

An easy way to understand precision medicine is to think of it as “personalized medicine.” Although we know that every child is unique, today’s childhood cancer treatment does not take into account the genetic differences of each child. Rather, a child’s cancer is treated according to disease type. But often, children with the same type of cancer respond differently to the same treatment. A chemotherapy which is effective for some may fail altogether for others because of the genetic differences at play. That is where personalized medicine comes in.

Over the past twenty years science has made incredible leaps in discovery by finding what is referred to as genetic barcodes – our DNA and RNA. We now understand what healthy cells look like and can often find triggers or markers in a tumor where something went wrong with a gene. By locating and isolating that problem and finding chemotherapies or other treatments proven effective against the genetic problem, doctors hope to improve survival while also minimizing exposures to toxic treatments which are not likely to work.

“There are really four outcomes when we look at genetic information taken from a child’s tumor,” explains Dr. Douglas Graham, Director of the Aflac Cancer Center. “The first is the perfect storm – we find a target that has a drug which is known to be effective against it and that drug is approved for children. We also may find a target with a matching drug that is not approved for children and would have to petition for access. The other options are not as optimistic. We may find a target with no drug known to work against it or we may find no target at all.”

The first step in the process is getting the child’s genetic information. Since July 2018, CURE has funded the genetic sequencing of more than 200 children with high risk or refractory cancers who would not have otherwise received the sequencing through another source.

 For 85% of the children sequenced, their treatment was impacted by the genetic information obtained!

CURE Childhood Cancer remains determined that precision medicine is one of the most promising methods for improving survival rates in children. And we steadfastly believe that our children deserve the best and safest options available.

A Lesson in Gratitude

Hannah Hazen is a busy young lady. As school starts back, she is jumping into JV soccer season, FCA and DECA meetings, and the student government. But with all that’s going on, she is still mindful to take the time to express thanks – and she’s got a lot to be thankful for.

Hannah’s world changed last March when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and began a very difficult chemotherapy regimen. Throughout her six-month treatment, she proved her toughness by pushing through the hardest days.

“I couldn’t avoid missing a day of school when I had a treatment,” Hannah said. “But even when I was tired or felt bad, I pushed myself. I had missed the end of my 8th-grade year and was determined to be at high school as much as possible.”

Her actual treatment is only a small part of the story. When Hannah looks back at 2021, she will mostly remember the amount of love and support she got from family, friends, neighbors, and even complete strangers. Early in her treatment, Covid-19 forced CURE to hold Lauren’s Run & Picnic virtually. So friends and neighbors decided to form Team Hannah to raise money in her honor. They set a fundraising goal of $2500 but raised more than $13,000 in the end. On race day, about 75 people gathered in her front yard and ran a 5k with her.

While she is incredibly thankful for the support of CURE, her gratitude goes way beyond fundraising.

“Everyone has been so great to me,” she said. “It was humbling to have so many neighbors, students and school staff encouraging me. I wore a wig one time, and it just didn’t feel like me. But no one has ever made me feel bad about being bald. I am confident in my baldness, but I am also glad that I’ve got a little fuzz growing back now.”

Her neighborhood even surprised her with a parade after she finished her treatment!

“I’m so excited to be cancer-free,” Hannah shared. “And I couldn’t have done it without everyone’s help.”

With that in mind, Hannah wanted to thank everyone but couldn’t figure out how to do it without leaving anyone out. So she decided to write a note that her mom could put on Facebook. Here is what she wrote:

Dear Everyone,

Thank you so much. I have received so much love and support while going through this very tough time. I am so thankful for all the lovely, kind, and beautiful gifts and letters of encouragement. Reading through all of the letters gave me the strength I have needed to fight. To all the people who have come to my rosaries, I thank you for praying with me. And everyone who has provided us with a meal. I am so thankful. Without all of this love and generosity I could never have done it. It is crazy how many people care about me and my family over the whole world!

With lots of love,

Hannah

Hannah learned a lot last year. But she’s also teaching us all a good lesson in gratitude.

 

 

Catching Up with Elena

Elena Tate first learned about childhood cancer in 2004 when her younger sister, Olivia, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The two girls love each other and share a lot of things. But Elena had no way of knowing that just a few years later, her back and leg pain would lead to a cancer diagnosis of her own. You heard that right – both sisters were diagnosed with pediatric cancer.

After Olivia’s successful brain surgery, Elena fought hard for two and a half years and was declared cancer-free. Unfortunately, she relapsed less than six months off treatment and was back in the fight. Early into this second battle, Elena’s body was not responding to chemo, and doctors were running out of treatment options. As her medical team searched the country for a clinical trial, a new one opened here in Atlanta. Elena had to have nine intense days of chemo and radiation to prepare her body for a bone marrow transplant. On July 25, 2012, Elena received that lifesaving transplant and has been cancer-free ever since!

“I definitely learned that I had to persevere,” Elena said. “But out of adversity or difficult times, you can always turn a negative situation into a positive one.”

A year later, while reading CURE’s newsletter, her mother, Christy, read about a clinical trial CURE funded in which only one child participated. She realized immediately that Elena was that child.

“A brilliant doctor had an idea to use an old drug in a new way, and he was given a chance to explore this idea because of funding provided by CURE,” Christy said, “Because CURE said yes, Elena is alive today!”

Elena doesn’t remember all of the details of her treatment, but it definitely altered her story and what she plans to do in the future. Last December, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Georgia Gwinnett College. During her time in college, Elena was the president of the psychology club, a Psi Chi International Honors Society member, an orientation leader, and a research assistant. She is now starting the process of researching graduate schools and plans to enroll in the fall.

After being a counselor for several summer camps, Elena knew that she wanted to work with kids. Because of the amount of time she spent in treatment and staff that made an impression on her, she considered becoming a child life specialist. But after deliberation, she decided she would like to work outside of a hospital setting. Elena’s experience has given her a profound empathy for children – especially younger children who sometimes don’t have a voice and cannot speak up for themselves. So she is planning on becoming an elementary school counselor.

“I want to work with the elementary school-age children,” Elena explained. “That is the age when they are in that stage of learning and developing, and we can help shape their lives in a positive way.”

Our staff has known and loved Elena and her family for a long time. We are proud to know the young women that she and Olivia have become. After a rough start, they both have the brightest of futures ahead!

The Empty Chair

Sadness over the loss of a loved one is always magnified during the holidays. This is especially true for a first Thanksgiving or Christmas. Holidays are synonymous with families gathering. So, if someone you love has died, this holiday may well be a struggle.

Our son Eric died many years ago, just a month before Thanksgiving. Our older son was still healing from the same accident as the holiday arrived, so there was no possibility of travel to be with extended family. We would be at home together. It was a quiet morning on Thanksgiving Day as the meal was prepared. Then early that afternoon, we sat down to eat – just the three of us, at a table for four. There was his chair. Eric’s chair. His place was as empty as our hearts were filled with grief.

If you will be grieving over these holidays, let me offer some guidance about how to handle this season intentionally and thoughtfully.

Grieve early You will need to mourn going into the holidays. The pain will not subside without it. In fact, it will become even more intense. Don’t wait for Thanksgiving or Christmas to arrive and be swept away with your grief. Be open to how you feel as the season approaches.

Mourn fully as each wave of grief comes over you. Holiday grief denied maximizes the likelihood of post-holiday depression. Give your grief a voice. Cry it out. Talk it out. Write it out (if you journal, and I encourage it.)

Plan aheadDo as few obligatory engagements as possible. Schedule your holidays in ways that will work for you. Keep the traditions that you like, drop those you don’t, and add any new ones that may be good for you now. This year needs to be your holiday. This one needs to be about you. Design it your way without a hint of guilt.

Take excellent care of yourselfboth now and throughout the holiday season. Do and attend what you want to do and attend, and do not do or attend what you do not want to do or attend.

Working through all the emotions of these first holidays takes so much energy, so engage in whatever recharges and replenishes you. Make time for yourself. Get rest.

Be near to those you love – Plan to surround yourself through the holidays with those who are good for you and enrich you. Be with the people who give you life and energy. Graciously avoid those who don’t.

Identify the one or two special people in your inner circle with whom you can be radically open. Let them know you may need a chat or two with them over the holidays. Then, whenever you need to, call them and pour out your heart.  Do not think for a moment you are burdening them. You are not. You are honoring them by inviting them into the inner sanctuary of your heart.

Tell your family and friends what you need Having decided that this year it’s alright for it to be about you, then communicate clearly to those closest to you what you need. Let them know your preferences for the upcoming holidays. Those who love you will appreciate your candor and direction. They do love you and want to know how.

This will, of course, be your family’s first holiday without their parent or grandparent or brother as well. Ask them in advance how they are feeling and if there is anything special they will need as you begin planning.

Share your memories as a family togetherAs you sit around the table for that Thanksgiving dinner, instead of ignoring what everyone is thinking, give it a voice. Remember the good times. Retell the stories. Stories are told and events remembered about someone so dear. Laughter is heard. A tear or two quietly sneak down someone’s cheek. And out of it all – the telling and the remembering – you will have honored his or her memory in a most personal way and worked through a bit more of your grief.

Have realistic expectationsThis won’t be a Currier & Ives holiday. It will be different. It will be tough. Anticipate times of deep sadness. Depression is sometimes experienced when expectations that are too high collide with reality. If this is your first year without someone you dearly loved, know that it will be difficult. Don’t set your bar too high and be disappointed. Remember the formula: reality divided by expectations equals happiness. Keep your expectations realistic.

 

When I ran marathons, I didn’t set the bar too high. My goal was just to make it through to the finish.  Let that be your goal – to have made it through…  to have made it through your first holiday season, to have honored his life, and to have savored the company of those you dearly love.

 

Written by Ron Greer, Pastoral Counseling Service
Peachtree Road United Methodist Church

When Cancer Comes Home

As a young lawyer, Roger Weitkamp had a co-worker whose experience with pediatric cancer led him to volunteer with CURE and ultimately serve on its board of directors. But nothing prepared him for when cancer came home.

“As the father of two little boys, I saw Kristin dealing with her son’s cancer diagnosis, and I couldn’t imagine going through that,” Roger said. “It made me want to do something to help.”

Roger and his wife, Cheri, decided to volunteer at Lauren’s Run and the CURE Picnic, and they kept volunteering whenever possible. His family also provided gifts for families as a part of CURE’s Holiday Angel’s program. His friend, Kristin, eventually became CURE’s CEO, and even after Roger and his family moved to London for business, they continued to support CURE from afar.

His family spent three years in London, where he and his football-loving sons, Jake and Jared, even learned to love British “football.” Roger returned to the US in 2014, eventually returning to a previous employer, tax consulting firm DuCharme, McMillen & Associates, Inc. (DMA), as general counsel.

As he and his family planned their return to the States, he let Kristin know that he would like to get more involved with CURE. Presented with that opening, Kristin encouraged Roger to consider joining CURE’s board of directors.

“I was actually quite surprised by her request,” Roger recalled. “I didn’t have first-hand experience with pediatric cancer and didn’t feel like I could understand what these families go through. Without that perspective, I didn’t know if I could do justice to board service.”

Kristin persisted, and Roger agreed, eventually serving five years on the board. With his legal background, he got involved in the governance of the organization and helped to revamp its bylaws. During that time, CURE experienced dramatic growth and furthered its support of families.

“Meeting families while volunteering gave me a little peek into the childhood cancer world,” Roger said. “While I was serving dinner in the hospital one night, I helped a teenager back to his room and saw that he was doing math homework. When I got home, my teenage son, Jake, was sitting at the kitchen table doing his math homework. It really struck me that night how random and indiscriminate childhood cancer is. That kid in the hospital could just as easily have been my kid.”

Ultimately, it was. In 2019, Jake (then 19) discovered a lump and mentioned it to his doctor during the annual physical required to play his sophomore year of football for Berry College. After a series of tests, Jake was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He had successful surgery and was deemed cancer-free. Jake is now in the middle of his senior year of college and is still playing and loving football. This year he is excited to play alongside his not-so-little brother, Jared.

“Jake had a suspicious and alarming scan recently that has doctors baffled, and he may require further treatment. But for the time-being, it is just something that we are monitoring,” Roger said. “Of course, we feel very fortunate that Jake’s cancer was detected and treated early. But the fear of it coming back will always hang over our heads.”

Earlier this year, Roger was in a meeting with DMA’s CEO and marketing and communications leaders, where they talked about increasing and consolidating the company’s charitable efforts across their offices in the US, Canada, and Europe. After his long involvement with CURE, it was an easy choice for Roger to advocate for CURE to become DMA’s primary charitable partner. His inside knowledge of the organization brought credibility. Marry that with the mission, and everyone at DMA quickly got on board. In September, DMA announced that they had adopted CURE Childhood Cancer as their company-wide charitable cause.

“The DMA family is a generous and caring group, and our company culture reflects that,” Roger said. “CURE and its mission are a natural fit. Although we’re just in the infancy of our efforts to conquer childhood cancer with CURE, we’ve already seen our people come together for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September and for the upcoming Holiday Angels program. Knowing how generous and committed the 600+ members of the DMA family are, it’s going to be fun to see how big an impact DMA can make in its support of CURE.”

Dancing with Eli

After the presents were opened and the stockings taken down, Eli Lowery got a gift that he really didn’t want. His parents noticed that he was limping and found considerable swelling under his knee. At ten years old, they assumed his issues to be growing pains. But ice and ibuprofen didn’t make the pain go away.

The pandemic made a doctor’s appointment hard to get. Finally in February, the doctor agreed that the likely cause was growth-related. Eli’s mother, Taylor, wanted to find out for sure and asked for a referral to an orthopedist, where an x-ray revealed a tumor on his left tibia.

“I was in shock!” Taylor recalled. “After they did bloodwork, we went to a bone cancer specialist who told us that the tumor appeared to be one of three cancers – two of which would demand an amputation.”

Eli is very active and wants to be involved in every sport he can play. But an amputation would infringe upon his greatest love: dancing. Taylor dreaded telling him that he may not be able to dance again, or at least not in the same way.

“There is no such thing as a good cancer,” Taylor said. “But the biopsy showed that Eli had a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which was the best of the three options. It has a more positive prognosis, and the treatment for it didn’t involve losing his leg.”

Eli started his chemotherapy the following week. Soon after treatment began, his hair started falling out, and he decided to shave his head to avoid the inevitable. He was also hesitant to eat and drink but didn’t have other significant side effects until a few weeks later.

At a clinic visit in late April, Eli complained of a headache. When the appointment was over and he got home, Eli began slurring his words and saying nonsensical things. When he woke up screaming during the night in agony, his parents rushed him to the emergency room where the staff found he had posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES) caused by his treatment.

PRES is a syndrome characterized by a headache, seizures, altered mental status, and visual loss. Fortunately, if promptly recognized and treated, it usually resolves within a week.

“He basically reverted back to the age of three years old,” Taylor said. “He couldn’t breathe and needed to be sedated for 36 hours. It did go away quickly. But that was very scary.”

Since that time, Eli has been a rock star in his treatment. He has shown few side effects and is getting stronger every day. On his eleventh birthday, Eli got a much better present. Scans showed that he is in remission! He can’t put weight on his leg quite yet, but he should be back on the dance floor very soon.

Using Her Journey for Good

In March of 2019, 10-year-old Emsley began reporting headaches. After days went by with no change, her mother, Jenny, suspected it was more than just a headache.

“When the headaches came four days in a row, I knew something was really wrong,” Jenny said. “I felt God was telling me to take her to the emergency room one night. So in the morning, we packed snacks and left for the hospital. I was determined not to leave until we had an answer.”

The emergency room doctor took her concerns seriously and ordered a CT scan which revealed a juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma brain tumor or JPA. In most cases, a JPA is a slow-growing tumor that typically does not spread to surrounding brain tissue. But Jenny would soon learn that Emsley’s tumor is anything but typical.

Emsley’s tumor sits atop her hypothalamus, which controls such things as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and more. Her tumor also has an extension that reaches her optic nerve and causes vision problems. The first five chemotherapy treatments prescribed did nothing to stop its growth, so Emsley was enrolled in the Precision Medicine Program funded by CURE. Doctors sent a sample of her tumor for genetic testing, hoping to find a target.

“The chemo they moved to after Emsley’s genetic tests made the tumor angry, so we had to change course again,” Jenny recalled. “But now that they have her genetic information, they can use it as we move forward in her treatment. As more discoveries are made, the answer to Emsley’s cancer could be just around the corner.”

Emsley’s treatment continued after the pandemic swept across the country, making the hospital a lonely, isolating place.

“Before everything shut down, we got visits from clowns, therapy dogs, musicians, and more,” Jenny said. “Then for a year we didn’t see anyone but doctors and nurses. As restrictions began to ease, I opened my door one day to find Lisa from CURE in the hall with a wagon of Chick-fil-A sandwiches. I broke down in tears right there. It was the first time in over a year that someone, other than a medical professional, knocked on our door. It’s mentally exhausting to go through treatment with no distractions and very limited human interaction.”

After switching treatments for the fourth time, Emsley’s tumor has been stable since December. She has been able to attend school in person this year and loves it. Even after getting chemo on Friday, she will beg her mother to go to school on Monday. Her teachers have all commented on her drive and motivation.

Due to her compromised vision, Emsley uses a cane to map out her path, and she is learning Braille. During the early stages of treatment, she was very reliant on others. But as she ages and understands how to cope with her situation, she has returned to being the fiercely independent child she was before her diagnosis. She has also embraced counseling to address the emotional impact of cancer and is learning to take each day as it comes.

“We are a family of faith, and we believe that the sorrow and pain we’re walking through means something,” Jenny said. “Emsley has decided that she wants to use her experience to become a teacher for the visually impaired. Even though it hurts, we know that He will use her journey for good.”

17 Ways to Help Children Fighting Cancer

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and while the issues and obstacles may seem overwhelming, there are little things you can do to help children with cancer. Whether you donate to advance research, display a garden flag, or share a Facebook post, many small actions can work together to make a big difference.

To help you narrow it down, here are 17 things you can do for children with cancer.

1. Get a garden flag for your yard – these flags encourage children and families fighting cancer and share CURE with everyone driving past your house. Visit CUREflags.org to get yours today.

2. Purchase a ticket or become a sponsor of Cocktails & CURE – our event hosted by the Young Professional Leadership Council on September 24 at Zoo Atlanta. Get the details at cocktailsandcure.org.

3. Host a Coins4CURE coin drive in your office or child’s school. Coins4CURE has made more than $476,000 for CURE one quarter at a time. Sign up at Coins4cure.org.

4. CURE’s Kids. Every day during September we share the stories of kids who have fought cancer. Our homepage will rotate daily to the featured pictures with links to their story and we will share them on our social media. Take a minute to read about these heroes, donate if you’re able, and share them with your friends.

5. We have businesses all over the state that are partnering with us during September. All month long, you can get a burger, enjoy chicken salad, or splurge on a donut that benefits CURE. Click HERE to support the businesses that support CURE.

6. Restaurants and businesses also host percentage nights where a portion of the proceeds from your purchase will benefit CURE. Take a look at our Calendar and make plans to visit those around you.

7. Do you own or frequent a business that would GoGold4CURE for a percentage night? We will provide everything you need to get started. Simply contact Kristen Rudio at [email protected] if you have an idea!

8. Start a Facebook Fundraiser. This is a great way to share our cause with your friends and family while raising important funds to help. Click HERE to set yours up.

9. Visit the CURE Store. By buying and wearing a CURE t-shirt, hat, or necklace, you are helping us to conquer childhood cancer while sharing the mission at the same time. Shop Now!

10. Add CURE’s September logo to your emails and everyone you email will know you support CURE. Click HERE to download. Be sure to link it to http://curechildhoodcancer.org/september.

11. If you are involved with a school, try to plan a Gold-Out Games. Most schools have been affected by pediatric cancer in some way and this is a great way to energize students for a good cause. Contact Kristen Rudio at [email protected] for more information.

12. Download our September poster and hang it up at your favorite stores and restaurants. Click HERE to download.

13. Add a donation sticker to a post or story on Instagram. Click HERE for instructions.

14. Send our Text-to-Give link to five friends and tell them to text FIGHT to 44321 – it’s that easy!

15. Get your car washed in loving memory of Lake Bozman in Marietta on September 17. Click HERE for details.

16. Host your own lemonade stand, chili cookoff, or other neighborhood event. The sky is the limit to what you can do. You can do it all yourself or use our handy DIY Fundraising site!

17. Follow us and share our posts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. This is an easy way to help us get the word out.

September is an important month for CURE, and we can’t do it alone. But with everyone working together, we can really make a difference for kids this year! If you need any help or direction, please reach out – we would love to talk to you. Please email Kristen Rudio at [email protected].