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CURE's Kids

The Value of Christopher’s Diamonds

Many people go their entire lives without discovering the things of greatest value. Others have experiences which teach them what is important, and some seem to be born with keen intuition. Christopher Wessels finds great value in the “diamonds” he collects. But the most important thing to him isn’t hoarding his gems, he prefers putting them to work for others.

When Christopher was three years old, a distended stomach sent his family to the emergency room, where doctors diagnosed him with a stage IV Wilm’s tumor. He spent the next seven months in a fight that included chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. He became a frequent flyer with trips between the Atlanta and New York hospitals where he received treatment in which he lost a kidney, an adrenal gland, and several lymph nodes. But on March 15, 2015, Christopher was declared “No Evidence of Disease.”

He has spent some additional time in the hospital due to asthma but is doing great today. He is a part of the survivorship program which entails an annual scan to make sure he remains cancer-free. This freedom from treatment has given him more time to pursue his precious diamond collection. Christopher sometimes gets caught smuggling them into the house, and many of the precious stones that make it home go through a special cleansing process along with the rest of his laundry. A six-year-old often forgets to empty his pockets.

Christopher mines these treasures all over the place: friends’ yards, city parks, and family vacation destinations. Rarely a day goes by when he doesn’t spy at least one diamond on the playground at his school. Once he gets his diamonds home, they join a display he has created in his playroom.

These diamonds are extremely valuable to this avid collector. Far more valuable than that, however, are the lives of the young children who, like Christopher, are at risk due to childhood cancer. When he learned he could help other children facing cancer by selling his coveted diamonds, Christopher willingly agreed.

Christopher’s family created a team at CURE Childhood Cancer’s annual Lauren’s Run. Team Courageous Christopher sent letters and emails offering his diamonds in exchange for a donation. Each diamond came with an original certificate of authenticity. His supporters immediately recognized Christopher’s passion and the value of such a prized collection. Orders and donations began pouring in.

The Wessels took time off for a family spring break trip where Christopher admitted to feeling some pressure. At a souvenir shop he showed his mother a bag of diamonds he needed to buy out of concern for the high demand that was outpacing his stock levels.

In the end, Christopher fulfilled all of the orders, and his team finished as one of the top fundraising teams at Lauren’s Run with an amazing total of over $11,000! Christopher is already prospecting for new “diamonds” to replenish current inventory levels for his collection.

Whether it was through his experience with cancer or just in his nature, this six-year-old has a keen eye for what is truly valuable in life and is an example for all.

 

 

CURE Childhood Cancer Honors Asher

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Join us today as CURE Childhood Cancer honors Asher. Join our fight as CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time! Donate to Asher’s fundraising page.

Like any mom, I am constantly taking random pictures of my kids just to document their adorable, silly faces. It was just like any other day, and I was taking pictures on my iPhone of our new four-month-old son, Asher, while he was lying on my bed. For some strange reason my flash, which I never use, went off and startled him as he stared wide-eyed straight at the camera. I went to delete the over exposed photo when I became startled myself as I observed an unexpected warning sign of a type of pediatric cancer that we had recently covered in my pediatrics class in nursing school. What I had viewed was one pupil exhibiting the typical ‘red eye’, or red reflex, sometimes caused by the flash on cameras, while his other pupil glowed white. I knew right then and there that the inevitable was occurring. I mentioned it to my husband, and he told me to “stop playing nurse”, and went about his business, but I couldn’t let it go. I pulled out my big DSLR camera and began snapping more pictures of my son with the flash to see if I could capture the “glow” again, and to my dismay, it was there…again, and again. I knew in my heart what was happening.

When I mentioned this to our pediatrician, she performed a routine red reflex check on his eyes, and advised me that Asher did not have a red-reflex in his right eye at all, and said that we needed to see a specialist right away. We were referred to a pediatric ophthalmologist the same afternoon who proceeded to tell us that, yes, it was either Retinoblastoma or Coats Disease, but that she would rather send us to Emory Eye Clinic to see Dr. Baker Hubbard, who specializes in Retinoblastoma in children, for Asher’s final diagnosis. We got in to see Dr. Hubbard the very next day, Wednesday, August 27, 2014, and on that afternoon, our four-month-old baby was diagnosed with cancer. Even though I had already prepared myself to hear the news, just hearing the words come out of Dr. Hubbard’s mouth made my entire world come crashing down and I became numb. How in the world could an infant have cancer!? He was so new to the world and hadn’t been exposed to barely anything.

Asher’s tumor was classified as a grade “D,” on a scale of “A” to E.” “E” being non-curable without removing the eye itself. His tumor measured 12mm, and an infant’s eye at his age only measures about 15mm. It was blocking his central vision, and had caused his retina to fully detach. And so, Asher’s fight against Retinoblastoma began just two days later. Since then he has received 6 rounds of chemotherapy, has undergone 25 eye exams under anesthesia (and counting) accompanied with laser or cryotherapy treatments, 4 MRIs under anesthesia (and counting), and countless doctors appointments, specialist appointments, hospital visits, and PT/OT and ST appointments. So far, our now 2 year old, has undergone anesthesia 30 times! This is more anesthesia than many people experience in a lifetime!

Asher has had several more small tumors grow in his eye since he was initially diagnosed, but frequent laser treatments have helped to kill them off, and much to our pleasure his last two EUAs have showed no new growth of his main tumor, which has mostly given us the most trouble! For the past two years our sweet, blue-eyed warrior has been handling all of the treatments and trips to Egleston like a champ, and is constantly winning over medical staff with his irresistible charm, fist-bumps and big blue eyes. Asher is the definition of strength and over night turned into a tiny hero. His two big sisters, Daddy, and I are fighting along side him, and have been blown away by the incomparable medical attention & treatments he continues to receive through Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta & Emory Eye Clinic. Fight on little warrior!

CURE Childhood Cancer Honors Team Thomasville

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Join us today as CURE Childhood Cancer honors Trevor. Join our fight as CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time! Donate to Trevor’s fundraising page. 

I have often times heard people use the phrase, “slowly sinking in quick sand.” It sounds like an oxymoron, but it is truly the feeling of many families when they hear those dreaded words from the doctor, “your child has cancer.” It is at that very moment that everything in your world stops, but time keeps moving. Hence, that is why I relate the quote, “slowly sinking in quick sand” with childhood cancer. Quicksand is a loose, wet sand that can suck down anything that lands or falls on it, often times swallowing it up completely. Unfortunately, that is what cancer tries to do in the lives of many that are affected by it. The process can be a very slow and painful one physically and emotional turning the lives of many upside down. It is not until you hear the words leukemia, lymphoma, medulloblastoma, hodgkins, or bone cancer and you are introduced to the world of chemotherapy, radiation and many sleepless days and nights, that you truly understand the importance of the month of September and childhood cancer awareness.

According to Cureseach.org, every day, 43 children are diagnosed with cancer. Of those 43 children diagnosed, 12% do not survive. Childhood cancer does not discriminate against gender, socio-economic status or race. More than 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year and the average child is diagnosed at the age of six. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta website reports that more than 400 of the 12,500 children diagnosed with cancer in the United States can be found here in the state of Georgia. But the most important statistic I believe is the amount of money that is contributed to help battle childhood cancer. Despite these facts, childhood cancer research is vastly and consistently underfunded. Research and development for new drugs from pharmaceutical companies comprises 60% of funding for adult cancer drugs and close to zero for childhood cancers. However, the National Cancer Institute spends 96% of its budget on adult cancers and only 4% of its budget on children’s cancers. In dollar terms, National Cancer Institute’s funding for pediatric clinical trials is $26.4 million while funding for AIDS research is $254 million, and breast cancer is $584 million (icareicure.org, 2016).

It is because of these statistics that it is so important to support agencies like CURE, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation and the American Childhood Cancer Foundation to name just a few in their efforts. But it is the efforts of small, rural communities like my hometown of Thomasville, Georgia that are just as important. Every year, families of children affected by childhood cancer rally together in a joint effort to raise monies as well as awareness for this worthy cause. We paint the community gold with bows in an effort to bring attention to this life altering disease that changes the lives of so many children. In an effort to support organizations like CURE, we not only sell gold bows, but we also organize a community car wash, sell baked goods and lemonade. We have a two-fold mission with our efforts and they are to raise funds and raise awareness. It is our hopes that many will see our efforts and join in our rally to help find a cure for childhood cancer.

Written by Vakesha Gordon
(mother of Jailah Armstrong)

CURE Childhood Cancer Honors Trevor

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Join us today as CURE Childhood Cancer honors Trevor. Join our fight as CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time! Donate to Trevor’s fundraising page.

On a Monday in February 2010 I began the day as usual. The older two were at school and I ran to Target to pick up a few things. I was on the cleaning aisle and got a phone call. Our neurologist was on the other end. He informed me our son Trevor had a brain tumor, and we had an appointment to meet a surgeon at 1:30 that afternoon. I stood up off the floor of the cleaning aisle wiped the tears and began the journey. Our world was forever changed from that day forward.

It was believed he had a benign teratoma. A needle biopsy was done and it proved to be inconclusive. We traveled to Atlanta and Memphis for second and third opinions. We were told his brain tumor was one in a million. It was located in the third ventricle in the pineal region. It was considered an incidental finding as he was not showing neurological symptoms. After meeting with several doctors we felt the best decision was for the tumor to come out.

Two weeks later and three days after his sixth birthday, Dr. Fredrick Boop removed the tumor. Ten days later we were due to come home and were hit hard with the pathology results. Trevor had cancer. There was an indescribable knot in the pit of my stomach. We traveled home to Savannah with heavy hearts and a lot to process. When interviewed by our local news that afternoon Trevor informed them he was going to “beat this stuff!” Wise beyond words at age six!

In two weeks we returned to St. Jude to begin treatments. My husband, Carlton, stayed behind to work and keep things afloat at home. The four children and I moved temporarily to Memphis. We had hope because God promised He would supply our needs! Trevor’s life verse is Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you may go.”

We spent almost five months in Memphis. We were blessed every day we were there. There were good days and bad. One of the hardest days was July 29th. This is my journal entry for that day:

“Trevor has had two rounds of chemo and the third begins tomorrow. Today my head hurts. There is so much to process. Two days ago Trevor had an MRI of the spine, today an MRI of the brain and a lumbar puncture. We have a whole new vocabulary now that we are here dealing with the big C. It most definitely changes your life. Right now I feel I could cry ten buckets of tears. I feel sick to my stomach. Just before taking Trev back for the MRI I noticed his hair is starting to fall out. This is a reality check. I knew it could happen. I tried to prepare myself. However no matter how hard you try sometimes you just will never be quite prepared enough. As I ran my fingers though his hair more fell onto the bed. We told Trevor it could happen and it was just hair and it would grow back. Today, well today just stinks. I look around and see so many little bald heads. Bald heads that belong to so many children from all over the world. All that comes to mind is Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red, and yellow, black, and white they are precious in His sight. Oh how true those words are. They are all so precious. Today, today is a reality check.”

I remember sobbing uncontrollably in a nearby restroom this day. I tell this because it was our reality. It is a reality too many families must face. Worldwide, a child is diagnosed with Cancer every three minutes. More children are lost to Cancer in the U.S. than all other childhood diseases combined. Danny Thomas founder of St. Jude said “No child should die in the dawn of life.”

Often we take life for granted. We put things off for another time and place. I know several who have lost a child to cancer. My prayer is that a cure is found for this awful disease and research continues. Every day a child survives cancer is another miracle!

This October is six years in remission for Trevor. We as a family continue to fight, and raise awareness for CURE! We are a family forever changed. We got the blessing to bring home our miracle. Thank you for contributing to the lives of so many. Not only do we appreciate it but every family who endures Childhood Cancer. Thank you and know without a doubt that your donations and fund raising are changing lives every day!

 

CURE Childhood Cancer Honors Liam

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Join us today as CURE Childhood Cancer honors Liam. Join our fight as CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time! Donate to Liam’s fundraising page.

My son, Liam, is a sweet, three year old boy who is quite the charmer, and he never meets a stranger. He LOVES to play, dance, blow bubbles, paint, and boy, oh boy, does he love superheroes, especially Spiderman. Never in a million years did I ever imagine I would say Liam is a cancer survivor. In April 2014, Liam had “lumps” that appeared on his head, and we took him to the local hospital’s ER. A biopsy quickly revealed we were dealing with the worst form of Neuroblastoma. Liam was in the fight for his life.

Liam’s treatment included 5 rounds of chemotherapy, which required lengthy hospital stays, numerous sick hospitalizations, multiple surgeries, a stem cell transplant with a 1-month hospital stay, many blood and platelet transfusions, and six months of immunotherapy. Liam completed his therapy in June of this year.

My son is my superhero! He has shown us how to have strength when there is none. Most people look at him and see sadness and pain. We see a fighter who always wears a smile no matter how hard the fight may seem.

One of the hardest things during my son’s cancer battle was the separation our family endured. Each time another chemotherapy round came up, my heart grew heavier knowing that Liam had to endure chemo, and our family had to be in many different places.

Before one of our chemotherapy admissions, I cleared the worries on my heart with the following words…. it’s raw and unedited, but captures the words that played in my mind as I packed our bags for the hospital:

As we were packing for yet another round
I felt so tired, so not wanting to be bound
Tired of the wait, tired of the pain, tired of the everything
Why isn’t there a cure? Why do so few people know?
Our babies are all suffering.
What do we have to show?
Chemo, radiation, surgery and much more
What my little one has been thru would throw you through the floor.
So many people are worried about all these other things.
Why aren’t we worried about the future that this brings?
They feel unbearable pain, they see the hardest things.
We watch their lives change, …but still no cure.
I’m at a loss for .
In this world we live in, it’s
so important to be seen… to be heard
But what about our little people?
They sit here and suffer because not enough spread the word.
I stand on my faith, which has brought me thru,
But what about all those who have no faith? What do they do?
I can’t save every soul from what they will see.
Cancer changes you from what you used to be.
We all need to stand and fight for a cure,
Because if we don’t this world will forever be impure!

I will continue to educate and fight for a CURE, so maybe one day I can help prevent someone’s child from having to endure what my sweet Liam has had to.

 

CURE Childhood Cancer Honors Terry

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Join us today as CURE Childhood Cancer honors Terry. Join our fight as CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time! Donate to Terry’s fundraising page.

Feisty and spirited are two words used often to describe Terry Milling. While these are true, Terry was also a girl, the youngest of three daughters, who just wanted to live life. She wanted to go to school, enjoyed playing soccer and loved to paint. Terry had a style all her own – shoes were meant to be colorful and funky.

In the fall of 2002, doctors discovered a tumor on Terry’s liver. She would need emergency surgery that may include a liver transplant. Fortunately, surgeons were able to remove Terry’s tumor without having to give her a new liver. Life would return to “normal” – for a little while at least.

Terry celebrated her 6th birthday in January 2003. Three months later her tumor would return. Terry had cancer – undifferentiated sarcoma – a rare solid tumor. Terry, her mom, Pam and two sisters, Mary Corinne and India, would learn a “new normal” that included hospitals, surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, fevers, nausea, blood transfusions and platelets.

Terry, the feisty, spirited girl would charge forth in her battle to beat the Cancer Monster. She was always hopeful and always positive she would survive. Then the treatments stopped working. Doctors told Terry there was nothing else that could be done.

On July 1, 2009, at 12-years-old, Terry gained her angel wings.

Despite the years gone by, grief knows no time line and there are still days when it’s hard for Pam, Mary Corinne and India. They push forward, working to make come true Terry’s dream of a world where no child has to go through what she did. Because the unfortunate truth is children are still being diagnosed with cancer every day.

Together, let’s make Terry’s dream a reality. Donate to CURE Childhood Cancer’s – “CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time” and help fund research that will lead to cures for all children’s cancers.

CURE Childhood Cancer Honors Miley

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Join us today as CURE Childhood Cancer honors Miley. Join our fight as CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time! Donate to Miley’s fundraising page.

Miley, our eight-year-old daughter is a cancer survivor. At just seven months old, Miley was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, when doctors found a less than 3 millimeter tumor in her left retina. To kill a tumor that was about the size of a sharpened pencil lead, our infant daughter endured six months of chemotherapy and nine laser treatments to her retina targeted at the burning the tumor away. The laser caused not only the tumor to die, but also scarring around the tumor area that resulted in her having a blind spot in the vision of her left eye. We are very thankful that today she has great vision with both eyes. She wears protective glasses to prevent an accidental eye injury and we patched her right eye for a few hours every day for five years to keep her brain exercising her weaker left eye. Today her vision is holding steady and we are able to take a break from patching.

We now know that Miley’s story is extremely unique. Her cancer was caught very early. Her doctors told us to “expect, even plan on” on more tumors. We refused to do that and truly through God alone, she has never had another tumor develop.

Miley has been screened closely for the past seven years because the probability of another tumor developing or the original tumor recurring. In the five years after diagnosis, Miley had anesthesia 29 times for eye exams under anesthesia (EUA) to check for more tumors in her eyes and regrowth of the original tumor and had 12 sedated MRI’s to check for tumors outside of her eyes and in her brain, which are associated with retinoblastoma. We praise God that another tumor never developed and are thankful for the close watch her doctors have kept over her.

Today Miley is healed and a healthy eight-year-old 3rd grader. She is wise beyond her years. Miley loves her family and friends fiercely and is the best big sister to her little 4-year old brother, Eli and new baby sister Livi. She loves life and Jesus Christ. She is cancer free and has been since March 30, 2009. We praise God with all of our being for the blessing of healing he gave to our daughter. Jeremiah 17: 14 ~ Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. ~ We praise God for the gift of all three of our children’s lives, for the gift of all life, and our family is forever changed with hearts of daily gratitude.

Miley had ONE 3-millimeter tumor. Miley’s cancer was a “best case” scenario (if there is a thing with childhood cancer). It was caught early, the treatment worked, and the cancer has not recurred; that is too often not the case with childhood cancer. Join us to raise funding for research for better treatments, for less side effects, for a CURE. Thank you so much for all the support you have shown our family. Join us for a CURE for all.

CURE Childhood Cancer Honors Nolan

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Join us today as CURE Childhood Cancer honors Nolan. Join our fight as CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time! Donate to Nolan’s fundraising page.

It has been 5 years since our son, Nolan, was diagnosed with AML leukemia; he was 8 years old and his little sister, Aubrey, was 6. Both of our kids are in middle school now and they are growing up so fast. There is no question that our lives changed forever that day. Everything became “before and after” Nolan got cancer. After seems pretty normal with the addition of annual Survivor Clinic visits where you learn about all the long-term side effects to possibly be prepared for.

Nolan just had his Bar Mitzvah in February, which was a huge milestone; it was something we didn’t know if we would ever get to do! We are blessed to have our family whole again. We know too many children who have lost their lives to cancer. No child should have to suffer through chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries. No parent should have to watch their child suffer. Every year we do our best to raise money for CURE Childhood Cancer; they help families who are going through the fight of their lives and they fund valuable research in the hope that no family will ever hear, “There is no more we can do for your child.”

 

CURE Childhood Cancer Honors Zachery

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Join us today as CURE Childhood Cancer honors Zachary. Join our fight as CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time! Donate to Zachery’s fundraising page.

Zachery Carruth has always been an active boy. From the time he was born, Zachery has always been on the move. He loves football; he has been playing since he was four years old. When he was 10 years old, Zachery was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in his foot in 2010. He completed 8 surgeries and each one seemed to be more difficult than the last, but he never gave up. Zachery always said, “God chose me because I am special”…. Those words were what got us through some of the most difficult moments over the years, and his family is what kept him going. Through all his treatment, Zachery was very quiet about what he was going through. He didn’t want his friends to know.

During treatment, Zachery was told that he could do all of the things a regular kid could do, but he would not be able to play football ever again due to the weakness in his foot. Zachery didn’t accept that. He pushed even harder to prove to everyone that he could do whatever he put his mind to. Zachery is a true fighter. And that was not the 1st time he had to fight, at age 2 he had a seizure that left him in a coma-like state. We are true believers that our Lord has plans for Zachery. We can’t wait to see what each day will bring. Zachery is a senior this year at Emanuel County Institute. And, he plays football! He is an Offensive Lineman and a Defensive Line Starter. Zachery was just announced as one of the top 11 players in the state of Georgia for OL and the top 53 players for the Class A All-State Teams. So, in a nutshell, Zachery tells everyone to always go after what you want, never allow anyone to tell you that you can’t achieve something that you believe in. “Each day, you have to be better than you were yesterday”.

 

CURE Childhood Cancer Honors Hannah

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Join us today as CURE Childhood Cancer honors Hannah. Join our fight as CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time! Donate to Hannah’s fundraising page.

When our precious Hannah was 4 years old, she was a happy girl whose biggest concern was whether she should play with her Barbie dolls or her Bratz dolls. Her favorite things to do were playing with her big sister Nicole, her cats and dog and her toys.  Her whole world changed on March 18th, 2005 when she was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuoblastoma. It was determined she had a large solid tumor and bone disease. The plan was surgery to remove the tumor and chemotherapy to prepare her bone marrow for a harvest of clean marrow for two stem cell transplants to follow, along with subsequent rounds of chemotherapy. This would be followed by radiation therapy and an Acutane regimen.

Within a month she had completed two rounds of intense chemotherapy. On May 5th they informed us that Hannah’s bone marrow was clean and on May 17th they did the harvest. Hannah’s surgery was performed in June by one of her amazing doctors at Scottish Right Children’s Hospital; he was able to remove the bulk of the primary tumor.  Now she was ready for her stem cell transplants. The stem cell transplants were by far the hardest part of the treatment for Hannah The transplants started with seven days of high dose chemotherapy and then the transplants. The pain was so intense that a constant morphine drip was required to manage it. I cannot describe how painful it is to watch a beloved child, in addition to everything else, have to take methadone to get over a morphine withdrawal. As if things weren’t hard enough the Bone Marrow Transplant unit is an isolation unit. Hannah was not able to be home or see her sister for weeks at a time.   By December Hannah had completed all of her treatments, and subsequent scans showed that Hannah was cancer free. Life was normal again, family, friends, school and fun. Each day was a blessing and a gift.

On March 15th, 2007 we learned that our precious Hannah’s Neuroblastoma had recurred. She would need chemotherapy every forth week. Each treatment would last five days. We would look for clinical trials and she could follow this plan for as long as the chemotherapy controlled her cancer probably twelve to eighteen months maximum.

Hannah truly is our little miracle! That chemotherapy has been keeping her cancer controlled for over nine years. Hannah’s doctor, Dr. Karen Wasilewski has told us they have not been able to find another child who has lived this long on chemotherapy with Neuroblastoma. Hannah had a biopsy recently and her last tumor is starting to mature. So for the first time since 2007 she will be chemo free for 3 months. This is our wait and see time.

We are so thankful to CURE for their commitment to help find a cure for all children’s cancer,and for their devotion to all of us.

Hannah’s optimism,courage and spirit continues to inspire and amaze us.  She is our miracle.

Hannah turned 16 in August.