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CURE Crew offers Savannah area high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to support CURE through fundraising, volunteering, advocacy, and awareness of pediatric cancer. Every year, it is difficult to say goodbye to the graduates. This year is especially hard because three of our graduates are childhood cancer survivors themselves.

In 2008, 2-year-old Cora Garola was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After several weeks of persistent ear infections and low-grade fevers, Cora’s pediatrician did bloodwork that revealed an elevated white blood cell count that ultimately led to the leukemia diagnosis. Although Cora’s diagnosis carries the highest percentage for success, her treatment called for three years of chemotherapy, high-dose steroids, quarterly spinal chemotherapy injections, and multiple bone marrow biopsies.

Cora lived out her preschool years on chemotherapy. Thankfully, she successfully completed treatment and has gone on to experience minimal late effects of the harsh treatments she endured as a young child. She barely remembers her cancer experience now.

Cora has been on CURE Crew for two years, but since her mother is the Vice President of CURE, she’s been volunteering for a long time. Her favorite experience has been at the Holiday Party.

“I love helping with other events, but the Holiday Party is special to me because we get to interact so closely with the children and families,” Cora shared. “Last year, my friends and I dressed up, and the kids loved it.”

Cora is graduating from Savannah Country Day School. She is going to Georgia Southern and majoring in psychology. She doesn’t have a career in mind quite yet but knows she has plenty of time to figure it out.

Mason Riegner was diagnosed with a soft tissue cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma at the tender age of four. The tumor was on the right side of his face. During his treatment, he entered foster care. While he didn’t understand enough to be anxious about the treatment, going through it alone made it a challenging experience. Unfortunately, Mason relapsed when he was eight years old and had to have his jawbone removed. He has been cancer-free since.

He has also gained a large family. When he was ten years old, his pediatrician adopted him. He has four brothers, three sisters, and one half-sister. Since his mother is a doctor, she has been pivotal in helping with his post-cancer treatment and the reconstruction of his face.

“With no jawbone, my face is off-centered,” said Mason. “I’ve had three surgeries to try to fix it over the years, including adding an artificial jawbone taken from my fibula.”

Despite all of his setbacks, Mason radiates positivity. He has enjoyed working with the CURE Crew and is very diligent about helping wherever needed. He will graduate in May from Calvary Day School and plans to attend Georgia Southern University, where he will study to become either a child life specialist or a physical therapist specializing in children’s therapy.

At the end of 2017, Lily Stucky had been sick and had some visible knots on her neck. When a rare dusting of snow fell in Savannah, Lily didn’t have the energy to go outside to play. Her mother thought she was faking to stay home from school. But a fever took her to the local emergency room, where doctors discovered Lily had leukemia.

She started chemotherapy right away and was plagued by “rare” side effects.  She lost weight on steroids, suffered from neuropathy in her feet and hands, and spent a month in intensive care because of brain swelling. Fortunately, Lily went into remission very early and stayed there, although the harsh side effects of treatment continued.

Lily has served on CURE Crew for two years and volunteers an hour a week at the CURE office through one of her classes. She will graduate from St. Vincent Academy and attend Georgia Southern University in the fall. When she was in treatment, healthcare workers had a significant impact on her. So, she plans on becoming a physician’s assistant.

“I like volunteering for CURE and knowing that I’m helping an organization that helped me,” Lily said.

There are so many graduates who have been through more than twelve years of school. Let’s congratulate these three and many others who have been forced to beat cancer before grabbing their diploma.