Inspired. Almost every day I learn something or hear something or see something that just leaves me feeling inspired. I’m going to wear out that word, I use it so often. But I can’t think of any other way to describe the emotions I constantly feel.
Serving as the Executive Director of CURE Childhood Cancer is such an incredible privilege. Every day I meet people who leave me feeling completely inspired. Sometimes it’s a patient like Ansley, featured in our Spotlight article, who maintains faith and resolve in the face of a relentless disease, or a parent who writes Caringbridge updates that leave me staring at my computer screen wondering where the wisdom and perspective come from. Or it’s a nurse who has devoted 19 years to expertly caring for and loving cancer’s youngest patients – or a board member who so loves serving CURE that he can’t wait for the next meeting, despite his demanding “real job.” Sometimes the inspiration is in a volunteer who spends hours in our office each month sorting and labeling and keeping us organized because she knows that will enable us to spend more of our time serving families, or it’s in a CURE staff member who is fueled to do whatever is needed by genuine passion for the mission and purpose of the organization.
Sometimes the inspiration is a team of doctors who, with brilliance and compassion, are working to find better, more effective ways to treat children with cancer. Are you familiar with precision medicine? This is an emerging approach for disease treatment that takes into account the individual variability in the genes of each patient. We believe precision medicine offers tremendous hope for more effectively treating childhood cancer, and we are investing significant resources – $4.5 million – in ensuring children have this available to them. With our funds, the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is launching the Aflac Cancer Center Precision Medicine Program. We believe this will be a game changer for hundreds and eventually thousands of children with cancer across the nation as knowledge is developed and individualized, non-toxic, curative treatments are developed.
As I write this letter, it happens to be the 16th anniversary of the day my son was diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully, today he is a healthy and active teenager. But in the years since his diagnosis, it has been my strong desire to make some kind of difference in the fight against childhood cancer. CURE has been doing that with research support in the tens of millions of dollars. That research has been important and impactful.
But my level of inspiration has reached new heights with the decision to fully fund a new Precision Medicine program. In doing so, we are bringing new treatment possibilities to so many kids with otherwise dismal prognosis. This is hope! And while it will take time to reach its full potential, the first and biggest step has been taken. Precision medicine will be a reality at the Aflac Cancer Center because of CURE and the incredible team of doctors doing the hard and highly complex work.
Thank you for letting me share my inspiration. I hope you will be inspired to join our efforts.