Category

Childhood Cancer

A Grandmother’s Lap

There is nothing like a grandmother’s lap. Warmth, comfort, unmerited praise, and unlimited protection are found in that special place. It is a happy land of yes when the rest of the world shouts no.

Diane Rochester knows all about having grandchildren in her lap. Diane hails from Salem, Alabama. She has two adult children and now she loves to read, work in various ministries at her church, and garden with her husband. Most of all, she loves her family and adores being a grandmother.

The first to call her that name was Noah. Noah was born in an orphanage in Vietnam in 2000. After a long adoption process, he finally came home to his family when he was four months old. The entire family fell in love with him immediately.

“He was just the sweetest baby,” Diane said. “My daughter and her husband were so proud of him. As he grew up they loved to ride bikes and camp out together as a family.”

But at the age of seven, some red spots on his neck took them to the emergency room where they discovered that Noah had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Noah would spend the next seven years fighting cancer. He reached remission twice during that time. But relapsed when he was twelve.

“He needed a bone marrow transplant but because of his heritage, we knew a donor would be hard to find,” Diane explained. “We finally found a match, though. He spent Christmas in the bone marrow transplant unit and we were very hopeful.”

Unfortunately, an infection set in that Noah’s weakened immune system couldn’t fight. He succumbed to the disease on Feb 14, 2013, devastating his entire family and breaking Diane’s grandmother’s heart.

“I’ve never cried so much in my life as when we lost that sweet boy,” she recalled.

Just two months later, Diane’s son had a little boy and they named him Ashton. Nothing could ever take Noah’s place, of course. But Diane was ready to have another baby in her lap.

“Ashton is a sweet boy, too” Diane doted. “He loves to swim and play pretend. He’s also very independent. He likes to do his own thing!”

Ashton’s mother was not a U.S. citizen and began having immigration difficulties that prevented her from becoming a naturalized citizen. In early 2018, she made the decision to return to Mexico while they continued the process of obtaining a visa. When school ended, Ashton flew to Mexico to spend the summer with his mother. While he was there, sickness forced a hospital visit where an MRI revealed a tumor on his kidney. His father immediately joined him in Mexico and brought him back to the U.S. for treatment.

“We were in shock,” Diane said. “Can you imagine – two grandsons with cancer? Ashton was only five and the tumor had grown to the size of a cantaloupe. They had to remove it and one of his kidneys, too.”

The tumor was a Wilm’s tumor – the most common type of kidney cancer in children. After successful surgery, Ashton began chemotherapy designed to prevent the cancer’s return. He has been going once a week for outpatient treatment. There was a rough patch when he had chemo and radiation combined, but he is finished with radiation and soon to be finished with treatment completely. Diane says that he bounces back quickly each week and is doing well and ready to get back to kindergarten.

“People think childhood cancer is rare,” Diane said. “But that’s simply not the case. If you think it is, this is one grandmother who can set you straight.”

 

 

Looking at Dee-Lenna

Dee-Lenna has a sparkling personality and a joy that shines through whether you’ve known her for years or just been introduced. She is a freshman at Georgia Southern University and is studying to be a nurse. She has always wanted to be a nurse, although she recently narrowed her choice of specialty to pediatric oncology – which is slightly ironic because she didn’t know what an oncologist was until her senior year of high school.

After fevers, chills, and weight loss drove her to seek medical attention, Dee-Lenna was seen by several specialists while waiting for a diagnosis. The doctor who kept coming back was an oncologist. His presence alarmed her family, but he was just another in a series of doctors to Dee-Lenna. It was the oncologist who finally revealed the problem: Stage Four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“Everyone in the room was crying except for me and my brother,” Dee-Lenna said. “I was shocked and scared, but I felt more of a relief because we finally knew what was wrong with me.”

Her treatment started right away and consisted of several months of chemotherapy and radiation.

“Radiation was the easiest part, and I didn’t really mind losing my hair,” she recalled. “But the chemo was awful. It made me so sick all the time, and once I spent four days in the ICU.”

Her medical treatment was only half the battle. Because of the side effects, Dee-Lenna was forced to miss most of her senior year of high school, and she fought emotional battles that threatened to shatter her self-esteem.

“I’ve never cried so much in my life. To the public eye, I was the strong teenage girl who wouldn’t let cancer take over her life. But behind closed doors, I was a mess. I honestly think that because I portrayed myself to be okay 24/7 despite undergoing treatment, people actually believed it. I felt like I was crying for help, but no one could hear me. Sometimes, not even family.”

While she was able to attend prom and graduation, she missed out on almost everything else. But friends did everything they could to keep her from feeling left out. Through the entire journey, her classmates and community were always behind her. Students from the senior class put together a prayer vigil for her during their senior skip day, and they all showed up on school grounds. And there were constant parties for her: parties to celebrate the end of chemo, the end of radiation, her eighteenth birthday, and even a head-shaving party. They celebrated everything together and watched as the days passed until her treatment was finally over.

Dee-Lenna achieved remission in July 2017 and finished treatment around the same time she walked the aisle as a high school graduate. She credits her friends, family, and specifically her mother for helping her through her cancer ordeal.

“Mom was my biggest supporter from day one,” she beamed. “It was a hard year, but I know my God didn’t bring me this far just to leave me. You’re looking at a Stage Four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Survivor!”

 

 

New Year’s Goals and Grief

by Carleen Newsome, LPC, CPCS, ACS Clinical Director at The Summit Counseling Center

If you have experienced a major loss this year, the last thing that may be on your mind is New Year Resolutions or 2019 Goals. It is possible you are still in the midst of grieving, and just when you feel you have taken a step forward, you wake up feeling you have taken five steps backward. Maybe the goals that were important to you before your loss hold little importance to you now. For many of us, New Year Resolutions often include losing weight, and concentrating on losing five pounds may seem ridiculous to many on the heels of losing a child or spending a year in and out of the hospital fighting for your child’s life. So, should we just forget about goals this year and give ourselves a break? Possibly. But I would like to suggest an alternative look at goal setting with grief in mind. Goals, when appropriate, can help us stay healthy and resilient in our deepest grief. Here are five goal setting ideas specifically designed with grief in mind.

Allow yourself to lean into your pain for defined and limited time periods.

It is important to lean into our grief at times, allowing ourselves to experience sadness and name the things we are missing. In fact, it is even okay to feel sorry for ourselves. We may ask, “Why did this happen to me when others seem to skate through life with minimal trauma.” Leaning into our grief allows us to move effectively through the stages of grief. Avoiding our emotional pain can contribute to feeling stuck and hopeless in our grief. On the other hand, simply leaning into grief can become overwhelming. An appropriate goal for 2018 may be to find “the middle ground.” Give yourself permission to lean into grief but give it a time limit. For instance, you may decide to stay in your pajamas and cry on the couch one morning. Allow it, but plan to get dressed by noon and meet a friend for lunch or go to the grocery store.

Practice self-soothing techniques during difficult emotions.

On those mornings when you allow yourself to grieve until noon, head to a designated spot in your home where you keep distress tolerance tools. Have a basket filled with items that can soothe your emotions as you experience them. Practice soothing all five senses. In the basket put a plush blanket, hot water bottle and your child’s favorite stuffed animal to soothe your sense of touch. Include a scented candle, essential oils, and your favorite scented lotion to soothe your sense of smell. Find other items to soothe your sense of sight, taste and hearing. To be most effective, keep them together in one place and use one item for each sense simultaneously.

Take a shower and get dressed each day.

Whether you intend to leave the house or not, plan to shower and get dressed each day. An appropriate goal would be to do that each morning even if you plan to binge-watch Netflix. Put a limit on your grief and accomplish something each day that gives you a sense of Mastery. A sense of Mastery is the feeling you get when you push yourself and accomplish something that in turn makes you feel better. This is one of the first steps in lifting depression and it is called Behavioral Activation. Behavioral Activation means that instead of waiting until you feel better to accomplish something you push yourself and end up feeling better as a result. A sense of Mastery may come from something as simple as making a few important phone calls or writing a block of thank you notes. It is definitely easier to accomplish something after you have taken a shower and dressed.

Identify three things each morning that you value.

Although there may be mornings where you would rather not face the day, turning our minds to those things that we value can create a different mindset for the day. Sometimes this practice is called gratitude journaling. Because I believe it is hard to be grateful when you have experienced the death of a child, I like to call this practice acknowledging the things that are going right in the midst of our loss. What is going right? It could be that the air is crisp and the sun is shining. It could be that a friend called last night and it was a comfort. It could be that I slept through the night. Focusing on these small gifts helps us navigate grief and become more resilient.

Give of your time and talents where you can.

We know that focusing on the needs of others and feeling that we have made a positive impact gives our life purpose and meaning. Having purpose and meaning increases our life satisfaction. It does not take away our grief but it helps us create a new normal and allows us to begin to create a life worth living. It is not a surprise that so many people who have lost their child find a way to give back to their community. Giving back honors the child, keeps their memory alive, and allows us to positively impact the pain of someone else who may be going through a similar event.

 

These may not be your typical New Year Resolutions but they certainly are life transforming, loving, compassionate, and healing! I challenge you to try them and find at least one that would make a positive impact on your life this year.

A Survivors New Year’s To-Do List

by Lillian R. Meacham, MD

It is important that childhood cancer survivors focus on staying healthy after cancer. Here are some helpful tips to consider:

1. Make your appointment to visit a cancer survivor clinic. Survivor visits begin when you are two years past the completion of cancer treatments. If you have reached this milestone, talk to your oncologist about a referral to the Aflac Cancer Survivor Program. In the cancer survivor clinic, you will be educated about your risk for any late effects which might be side effects from your cancer treatment. You will also be checked for those side effects through labs or screening tests. You may see an oncologist, an endocrinologist, a pediatric psychologist, and a social worker. The number of providers you see is based on your health needs. If you already attend survivor clinic, be sure to make your appointment for 2019.

2. Find and review your survivor healthcare plan. If you have already been to survivor clinic, review the survivor healthcare plan you received in clinic. The survivor healthcare plan will outline the cancer treatments you received, the late affects you are at risk to develop, and how the survivor team plans to check you for any late effects. If you have any questions about what you find in your survivor healthcare plan, jot them down and bring them to clinic with you. If you can’t find your survivor healthcare plan, check Cancer Survivor Link online! If you are registered for Survivor Link at www.cancersurvivorlink.org, each year when you come to the Aflac Survivor clinic the team will upload the newest version of your survivor healthcare plan to your electronic record.

3. Learn a new self-management health skill. If you are an adolescent or young adult, work on a new survivor skill. A parent of a younger survivor could help him or her choose and develop a skill. This could be the survivor calling to make the clinic appointment, making the co-pay at the time of the appointment, or downloading the survivor healthcare plan from SurvivorLink. You may choose to know the names and doses of your medications or call in the refills this year. There are many skills that need to be learned, but if you learn them one at a time you will have them all down in no time.

4. Be sure to keep seeing your primary care provider for normal child and adolescent medical care and visit your dentist twice a year. Sometimes there are so many specialty doctor’s visits, it is hard to fit in the “normal” visits, but they are important too. You want to keep your primary care physician up-to-date on your health so he or she can take care of your routine medical needs. Also, don’t forget to get your teeth cleaned and eyes checked.

There are several skills a young survivor needs to learn to maintain health. By working to master one or more of these skills in the coming year, you will be setting yourself on the right path to a healthy life after cancer.

Cheering for Lauren

When Lauren was only two years old, her parents noticed a lump in her abdomen and got the worst news imaginable. Their happy, beautiful baby was diagnosed with neuroblastoma – a pediatric cancer of the nervous system. They immediately entered a world of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and too many side effects to mention. But after several months, Lauren’s tumor shrunk, and she was declared cancer-free.

When her health improved, Lauren dreamed of being a cheerleader. She joined a competitive squad and even made her school team. She loved every practice, meet, and football game and she worked very hard to be her best. At 15 she was primed for high school cheering until she began experiencing hip and leg pain that sidelined her. Being so active, a doctor suggested that she had arthritis in her hips so her first attempt at recovery was physical therapy.

The PT actually helped for a time; but the pain came back. In February 2017, an MRI revealed new lesions and she discovered that once again, neuroblastoma had invaded her body. In all, the imaging indicated 28 spots that were likely active tumors.

The first four cycles of chemotherapy stabilized the tumor but didn’t shrink it. She moved on to immunotherapy which is supposed to attack just the offending cells and leave healthy cells undamaged. She spent alternating weeks in the hospital for over a year. That treatment failed also.

Her next treatment consisted of a targeted radiation called MIBG therapy.

“MIBG made me very sick and uncomfortable,” Lauren recalled. “I had to stay by myself in a room with lead walls to contain the radiation. Even when I got out I couldn’t be around people for two weeks so I wouldn’t expose them. We thought I might glow in the dark, but I never did.”

After the treatment, Lauren’s follow-up MRI showed 18 spots remaining. That was a good reduction, but not enough. Her doctor recommended that she undergo MIBG again. But remembering the side effects she had the first time, Lauren didn’t want to do it until her mother talked her into it. The second round took her disease burden down to 14 spots and she cannot do radiation again because she has already received her lifetime maximum dosage.

She and her doctors are now looking for other options to finish the cancer for good. In the mean-time, Lauren has been pain-free since March and her energy levels have returned to normal. She has a positive and hopeful attitude. She loves school and hopes to become a dermatologist when she grows up.

“I spent my Sweet 16 getting scans and the nurses and child life specialists threw me a party,” Lauren laughed. “I appreciated it so much. But even better, we found out that the new treatment was working! The disease in my bone marrow was lessening, and the tumors were shrinking! My hair is growing back! My cancer journey has made me realize that you have to live life to the fullest and never give up!”

CURE invests $4 million annually at leading pediatric research centers with one goal in mind: safer and more effective cures for childhood cancer that will allow children like Lauren the opportunity to live full lives and reach for their dreams. See how you can join us by visiting our website.

Cap & Gown… and Cancer

Last weekend, Kennedy Cobble walked the aisle beside 2000 other graduates at the University of North Georgia. While many were watching, few in the audience truly understood how many steps it took her to get there. When she was in the eighth grade, Kennedy was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma – an aggressive bone cancer. Over the next four years, she would beat cancer not just once, but four times: once in her sacrum, twice in her lungs, and once in her tibia.

“The hardest part was for me was that I had to watch my friends move on while I took a year off because of treatments,” Kennedy said. “Falling behind is hard for a girl in high school.”

After finally achieving remission, Kennedy graduated high school in 2011 and then took more time off. It wasn’t the average gap year. Kennedy would need three years to fully recover – not from cancer, but from the years of harsh chemotherapy that wreaked havoc on her body.

“When I finished fighting the cancer, I had to fight the side effects from the treatment. Doctors replaced my sacrum, the lower half of my spine, and part of my pelvis,” she detailed. “I had to have a knee replacement, a metal rod in my tibia, and my femur was so brittle it needed a metal plate to reinforce it. But I’m here!”

She was strong enough to resume school in 2014 and now she is a college graduate! Her degree is in early childhood education and she hopes to land a teaching job soon. With all she’s been through, Kennedy will be a wonderful example of strength, patience, and perseverance to a lucky classroom of students.

When Andrew DuBois lines up with his fellow graduates to accept his diploma from The Walker School’s principal, he likely won’t be the tallest of the group. But he doesn’t mind that at all. Andrew is pointed toward a promising future and a little thing like height won’t bring him down.

While the other boys in middle school were hitting puberty and growing, Andrew noticed he was not. Initially doctors told him to be patient. But after a long period with no change, an MRI revealed a tumor pressing on his pituitary gland which caused a deficiency in growth hormones. The tumor was not spreading but the location meant it wasn’t a candidate for surgery or radiation. His treatment began with a hormone supplement to try to bring on puberty, but that made the tumor grow. So Andrew started a regimen of chemotherapy.

The first chemo was very harsh and ineffective. It caused him all kinds of problems including neuropathy in his fingers. After discontinuing that drug, he began taking biweekly doses of another chemo called Avastin which effectively shrunk the tumor. That became his routine through the rest of high school – trips to get chemo every other week.

“I had a pretty good attitude, but I’d be lying if I said I kept positive the whole time,” Andrew said. “The early teenage years were tough. I had played baseball all my life and had to give it up because the other guys grew bigger and stronger and I didn’t. But I began to focus on music and loved being a part of the band and drumline. I finally decided that I wasn’t going to let my height bring me down!”

In the fall, Andrew will be attending Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville where he will major in nursing.

“I spent five years watching what nurses do,” Andrew shared. “I have seen how important they are to the healing process and I think I will be able to relate to patients in a special way with all I’ve been through.”

Maddie Harris uses the line, “The tassel was worth the hassle.” And for her, high school started as a huge hassle. On the day after Thanksgiving during her eighth-grade year, Maddie noticed an odd bruise on her lower leg. It continued to get worse until just days later she couldn’t walk on it. X-rays led to an MRI which revealed a tumor and on December 6th, Maddie was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma.

She had a port placed and began the standard mix of chemotherapy. One of the drugs she had to endure was Doxorubicin – otherwise known as “the red devil.” Maddie had a severe reaction to this drug. Her feet blistered all over and she couldn’t walk on them. This side effect abated and she went on with treatment. Although it was hard on her, Maddie was more concerned with others.

“The toughest part for me was trying to keep my friends calm and reassuring them that I was going to be okay, even when I felt terrible,” Maddie recalled. “They acted scared around me and I wanted them to know that even though I was sick and bald, I was still Maddie.”

Maddie’s treatment would last until the middle of her freshman year at Harrison High School. She didn’t get to go to school until the fourth day and by that time, all of her classmates knew their way around and she kept getting lost in the hallways. But the school and her teachers were very supportive. Some even came to her home to help with lessons.

That was three years ago. Maddie just took her last final and will start her freshman year at Georgia College & State University in the fall – where she plans to arrive on time! She isn’t completely decided on her major, but wants to work with children and is considerting therapy or counseling – which is no surprise considering her life experience and compassion for others.

The Girl who Dances Through Chemo

Imagine having to evacuate for a hurricane just days after you’ve celebrated the birth to your fifth child. To make matters worse, while away from home you notice that your eight-year-old’s stomach is distended and hard. It seems more than we can fathom, but it happened to Derrick and Alana Williams.

After Hurricane Irma moved out last September, the Williams family returned to Savannah. They assumed that the hardness in Nevaeh’s stomach was due to constipation or something similar.

“When we got home, we saw that her stomach had grown a lot from the time we first noticed it,” Alana recalled. “It stuck out so much she looked like she was pregnant. I tried to hold it together for her and her sisters. But I was freaking out!”

Derrick took Nevaeh to the doctor, who immediately sent them to the hospital. After an ultrasound and CT scan, he heard the awful words, “your child has cancer.”

The hardness in their daughter’s stomach was a three-pound tumor. In fact, Nevaeh had several tumors in her abdomen. After a biopsy, the tumor was originally diagnosed as Ewing’s sarcoma. But Alana wasn’t sure. She began researching Ewing’s and nothing seemed to match up to Nevaeh’s symptoms. A second opinion revealed the tumor was actually desmoplastic small round cell tumor (DSRCT) – a cancer so rare that fewer than 200 cases have ever been reported. Worse still, there is no standard treatment available.

Doctors recommended the same aggressive chemotherapy regimen that is prescribed for Ewing’s sarcoma and began right away. This chemo typically causes nausea, mouth sores, and many other difficult side effects. But those haven’t seemed to bother Nevaeh. She hasn’t been sick or hurting in the hospital. In fact, she has danced.

Her mother describes Nevaeh as outgoing, strong, and brave. She is a very perceptive girl and knows exactly what is going on with her cancer and her treatment. She also loves music. She started playing her favorite songs as a way to distract herself after chemo. And like most of us, she couldn’t keep from moving when her favorite songs played. That’s how the dancing started.

“It’s very therapeutic for her,” Alana said. “She can’t help the fact that she is stuck in the hospital, but dancing is a way to block out the bad stuff and try to keep things normal. It is one of the few things she can still do right now.”

Nevaeh’s dancing has attracted attention. She has danced with musicians and Falcons players who have come to visit the hospital. She has also learned to manage the tubing that is attached to her during her hospital stays. She holds the lines in one hand so she doesn’t get caught up in them. Nevaeh often Facetimes with her sisters so they can all dance together.

“We are a very close family. We do everything together,” her mother said. “Her treatment is really the first time the family has been separated, so we are glad she can use her iPad to talk and play with her sisters when they are apart.”

The good news is – her treatment is working. Nevaeh’s tumors have shrunk over 50% since treatment began. Soon she will have a high-risk surgery that circulates chemo into her abdomen to kill cancer cells that cannot be surgically removed. After she recovers from that, her plan includes six weeks of radiation and if everything goes well, Nevaeh will then be free to practice her dance moves wherever she likes with no tubes to hold her back!

Throughout the treatment, her attitude has been nothing short of inspiring. When a reporter asked her about her treatment, the little dancer simply said, “your current situation does not have to be your destination.”

Staggering yet Stagnant Innovation

What are the greatest innovations of the last forty years? Going back to our bicentennial – 1976, can you come up with the top scientific, technological, and medical discoveries that have impacted society? I had the opportunity to speak to a middle school class in Decatur, GA last week and posed that very question. Although they’ve only been alive for one decade, hands shot up all over the classroom and I began to field their responses:

“The Internet!”

Correct! There was no internet or social media. We talked to each other.

“Cell phones!”

I mentioned rotary phones but lacked the Pictionary skills to make them understand rotary dialing.

“Mobile devices!”

Another good answer. I explained the huge shoulder boom boxes but since they can store a thousand songs on a device the size of a quarter, it was lost on them.

“Color Television!”

No, we had color tv’s but only three channels with no cable or satellite.

Mouths dropped.

“Space travel!”

Well, a man walked on the moon in 1969 but you are right, there has been a great deal of space innovation since. We’ve even sent a rover to Mars.

“The Gyro Rocketter!”

I suppose so. I’m sorry, I don’t know what that is.

“You couldn’t know, I only invented it just now.”

A shy hand went halfway up nearby. With the others bemoaning how hard life must have been in the paleo-internet age, I called on the young man who tentatively asked:

“I don’t mean to offend you, but did you fear from dinosaurs back then?”

Thus ended the question and answer portion of the presentation.

When you think about it, the innovation of the last forty years has been staggering. Yet in some areas, it remains unbelievably stagnant. While we have made huge leaps of progress in the fight against many forms of cancer, there are still some childhood cancers that have eluded treatment advances altogether. I discovered this fact when my daughter was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma at the age of twelve. We were given a treatment protocol which I was told would have been nearly identical to what I would have been given had I gotten the same cancer at twelve. I am not quite as old as dinosaurs, but I was twelve in the 70’s and find it unbelievable that during this age of discovery, children are being left behind.

There are various factors contributing to this sad fact. Although incidence rates are increasing, childhood cancers are still classified as rare compared to adult cancers such as lung, breast, and prostate. Funding from the government and large cancer charities lean heavily toward the cancers that affect more people without taking age into consideration. Yet our children are counting on us to do better. Certainly there are good doctors and researchers working hard to uncover safer and more effective treatments, but there is still a long way to go. That is why CURE is so vitally important. We focus our funding on projects aimed at improving outcomes for the 20% of children not surviving today’s methods of treatment. In addition, we fund projects for developing therapies that will preserve a child’s quality of life after treatment.

Click here to see a list of the research projects we are currently funding and join our search for a CURE

Believe in Grace

We all could use a little more Grace in our lives – and by Grace, I mean Grace Bunke. Grace is your typical eighth-grader: braces, curly hair, and a delightful smile. But Grace is exceptional in many ways and one you would spot immediately – her ankle is now her knee!

 

 

Don’t believe me?   It’s true.

 

 

Grace was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in August of 2014. With her treatment options limited, Grace and her family chose rotationplasty – an innovative surgery that removes the cancerous knee while the ankle is rotated and reattached to the limb. Since a typical amputation would limit her future flexibility, having a knee joint greatly increased the chance that Grace would be able to continue her athletic pursuits after treatment.

 

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Grace is fast!

Before cancer, she ran track and cross-country. With a running prosthetic being built, those days on the track are soon to return. However, for now, she has a new love: swimming. Things can be difficult for a swimmer with half a leg. When she first got back in the pool she only used her full leg, but she gradually taught herself to use both and now there is no stopping her. She said it took a couple of months to really get the hang of it and go fast. Once she mastered the stroke she went on to swim competitively. In fact, she has her sights set on the Paralympics.

 

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But October brought on a setback. After a routine scan, doctors found tumor growth in her lung that required immediate surgery. While the family prepared for the surgery, they also began to think about what that would mean to Grace’s swimming aspirations. Her mother, Vicki, wrote:

But more important than that, during the course of the weekend, Grace told me that she had designated the Can-Am Open Meet in Miami over the Thanksgiving break as her ‘come-back’ meet. When I gently implied that she may not be entirely ready for this meet, she replied with the following question:

Mom, don’t you believe in me?

Ugh – what a punch-in-the-gut-mom-moment.

Of course, I believe in you Grace, I replied.

And then added:

You have taught me more about believing than anyone I have ever met. And you have shown me that our best life is not our easiest life. Our greatest joy and satisfaction comes not from avoiding hard things but from joyfully embracing them.

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The surgery is behind her now. The doctor removed a single lesion/nodule from Grace’s left lung and is confident that she obtained clear margins. And Grace? She’s back in the pool and pointing toward Miami at the end of November. You don’t have to talk to Grace very long to know that she’s driven. Once you meet her, it is easy to believe in Grace. In fact, I would say it would be impossible to spend a few minutes with her and be a doubter.

CURE believes in Grace and can’t wait to hear her race times later this month. We also believe that childhood cancers can be defeated in our lifetime. Join our team by contributing to life-saving research today. Your donation, however large or small, shows that you too believe.

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I Don’t Fear Clowns

I don’t fear clowns. I never have. I’ve always thought of them as a little silly and I have no memory of being extremely entertained or terrified by them. I’m sure I have chuckled at their antics at the circus, but I’ve never been afraid. Frankenstein – now that is something to fear. I recall a family near my childhood home who went all out with Halloween to the point of making their yard a virtual haunted house. Not only that, they had Frankenstein clomping around in the driveway – complete with neck bolts. Rumor around the neighborhood was that he was actually the real monster! My one saving grace was that I knew I could outrun him since the good doctor didn’t see fit to give him bendable knees.

Frankenstein, yes. But I don’t fear clowns. Even in today’s world where creepy clowns seem to have become their own criminal element. I can’t get too worked up because I’ve seen scary things. Costumes, make-up, and raggedy hair don’t illicit fear from me.

 

 

Would you fear our bunny clown?

 

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Anything?

Of course not. Not this clown. This clown is cute and cuddly. This clown would get handful upon handful of candy should she come to your door to trick-or-treat. There is nothing to fear from her.

 

But I assure you that this picture holds something to fear!

 

Her bald head reveals that she is in treatment for childhood cancer. Most of today’s standard treatments involve some amount of chemotherapy.

 

CHEMOTHERAPY: noun, Medicine/Medical. [kee-moh-ther-uh-pee]

1 The treatment of disease by means of chemicals that have a specific, toxic effect upon the disease-producing microorganisms or that selectively destroy cancerous tissue.

 

The reality is that the chemo children are forced to endure should inspire fear. Note the word: toxic. Chemotherapy uses a combination of chemicals designed to be slightly more toxic than the cancer itself in the hopes of killing the cancer. The drugs target and destroy fast-replicating cells and unfortunately do not differentiate between good cells and bad cells. The side effects from this poison can be dramatic and lifelong. Other common treatments such as radiation, surgery, and bone marrow transplant can have their own range of nightmarish complications. Yes, today’s treatment for childhood cancer is something to fear.

 

At CURE Childhood Cancer, we are working to alleviate these fears. From our investment in cutting-edge research to our focus on the well-being of families undergoing treatment, CURE is at the forefront of bringing about a fundamental change in how childhood cancer is treated. We focus our funding on projects aimed at improving outcomes for the 20% of children not surviving today’s methods of treatment. We also fund projects for developing therapies that will preserve a child’s quality of life after treatment. Additionally, CURE’s patient support starts at diagnosis and incorporates meals, emergency support, and counselling to aid the family during this difficult time.

See more of what we do at www.curechildhoodcancer.org and join our team of believers today.

Together, we can make treatments for childhood cancer a little less scary.

 

 

*Pictured is Carly, who is scaring away Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

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