Childhood cancer is too common for us to ignore
Last summer my 17 year old son, Casimir, started complaining about sharp pain in his neck. We took him to at least four doctors who treated him for muscular or skeletal problems. No treatment worked.
Soon he was having trouble raising a fork to his mouth. Then he could not raise his arms at all. Those are scary memories of how quickly his coordination deteriorated. After two visits to doctors in two days, one doctor told us to take him to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin right now. That night he had an MRI that imaged the tumor that was compressing his spinal cord causing the loss of muscle control. The next morning the surgeons removed the tumor.
Six months of brutal chemotherapy followed. The toxic medicine would shrink the other tumors surrounding his neck while destroying all of my son’s white blood cells leaving him vulnerable to infections. He would run a fever causing him to be admitted to ICU so they could keep a close watch on him. When he finally felt a little decent, they started another round of chemo.
I’m crying just writing this. Cas is still with us. His cancer is in remission. He is his fun self again. He is in school. We are playing fantasy football together.
But I remember his friend, Kendra. They appeared in school plays together. They were also being treated for cancer at the same hospital. The last time I saw Kendra she was in great spirits while she told me she was starting chemo. That shook me because she had gone through radiation treatments. The radiation was to create negative space around the tumor in her leg before surgery. The surgery was successful at removing the tumor that weighed over 3 pounds. However the cancer had spread. The chemo was considered for a clinical trial, but her condition was too complicated. Kendra passed away on January 5th this year, on her younger brother’s 14th birthday. She did not make it to her 17th birthday on Valentine’s Day. I am tearing up thinking about her sweet parents whose first baby was born on Valentine’s Day and never made it to 17 years old.
Twenty years ago, my now 18 year old son would not have seen his 18th birthday. But thanks to advances in cancer treatment, he is still here. I can hug him. I can bike with him. I can eat pizza with him. However odds are he will have serious long-term effects from the treatment he received. Most childhood cancer survivors do. But today he is with us.
There are still too many we lose to cancer. Too many of them are children. To see mothers hold their babies while dragging their babies’ IV poles behind them is something I will never forget. I will never forget Kendra. Cancer stole her physical life from us at all too young of an age. Thankfully her spirit lives on touching many lives around us each day, as the world continues to search for ways to find the healing needed to battle this terrible disease.
Through the generous support of our clients, families, friends and team, we were able to donate a total of $2,050 through an online fundraiser we ran in September. Thank you to everyone who helped us raise funds and awareness for this cause!
You can help more children survive cancer. The National Pediatric Cancer Foundation focuses exclusively on research to eliminate childhood cancer, and to do that with less toxic, more targeted treatments. St. Jude Children’ Research Hospital understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Whichever research organization you prefer, please give.
Childhood cancers are far too common. There are victories. We can win more.