Children's Cancer Recovery
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Connor’s Story

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Our story begins like so many others, just a normal day, December 5th my boys playing together when Connor starts to say his stomach hurts. He lays down and so begins two days of his stomach hurting. A trip to the doctor and two trips to the ER. All doctors seemed to be confident it wasn’t his appendix, which was also my concern. On December 7th around 11 PM he woke up screaming, “It hurts so bad mommy.” I quickly rushed him to the ER for the 2nd time. This time a wonderful doctor listened to me and around 3 in the morning he had an IV in and had a CT scan done. A few hours later she came in to tell me they found a large mass on his liver and an ambulance was on its way to rush us to Hershey Medical Center. My heart still sinks when I think of that moment. I held in my crying as much as possible because he was watching me, so sweet and tired and in pain wondering why I was crying. I told him I was just tired. My husband rushed to see us before we left for Hershey, my mom rushed down from Clarion. Family friends helped with our other boys.

We arrived at Hershey and no time was wasted. He had a second CT scan. No less than 8 surgeons, oncologists, and med students surrounded us to tell us he had a tumor on his liver and would be having a 7-hour surgery the next day. One of my brothers arrived and we spent the day playing with Connor trying to not upset him. I remember clearly that we didn’t have anything for Connor because we left from the hospital so they gave him the Spider Man jammies. At 11:00 that night him and I sitting in the quiet hospital room and he looks at me and whispers, “Mommy when I grow up I am going to be Spider Man.” I just remember holding back my tears and thinking, yes, you have to grow up.

The next day he had surgery. Seven long hours and he would spend the next 10 days in the hospital. You don’t know the anguish of seeing tubes sticking out of your child, seeing his perfect belly, now with a permanent scar.

Connor recovered from this surgery while we waited for the pathology reports to determine if he would need chemotherapy. They came back, Hepatoblastoma, yes he would need chemo. New Year’s Eve he had surgery to place a port in his chest and began chemotherapy. Four cycles of chemo over the next few months would lead to hair loss and permanent hearing loss. He now wears hearing aids. Through it all the outpouring of support from communities and charities we had never heard of before helped to lighten our load and let us focus on his health.

I am happy to report today Connor is 2 and ½ years cancer free!

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Cancer is the leading disease killer among children in the United States with 1 in 5 children diagnosed not surviving. Despite these statistics, the FDA has approved only three new cancer treatments for children in the last 20 years. In order to have a world without childhood cancer, there needs to be more funding for research. More research will ensure better treatments for children fighting cancer and fewer children having to battle this terrible disease each year.



Verity’s Story

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Child Name: Verity
Diagnosis: Medulloblastoma
State: KY
Program: Helping Hands Fund
Date Helped: October 2016

1. Cancer. When did this word enter your life?
July 25, 2016

2. How has cancer affected your family in a positive and/or negative way?
Positive – We have seen humanity’s greatest qualities: love, courage, and compassion.
Negative – Suffering and sickness are hard to see/endure. Family separation, for a time, was really hard.

3. What has been the biggest challenge or struggle during your child’s treatment?
The first and greatest struggle as parents was deciding on the best treatment option and center. For our child, nutrition has been the greatest. Vomiting, dehydration, and fatigue are all culprits. A G-tube has really helped.

4. How have you and your family stayed mentally and emotionally healthy?
By receiving support from family and friends, we know that Verity is being prayed for, is loved, and not alone. Even organizations, like Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation, that do not even know us personally, show care and concern. Our faith has gotten us through.

5. What has brought the most joy or fun to your family’s life during your child’s treatment?
The simple, ordinary things in life. Being able to share our journey together, experiencing the good and the bad, is joy in and of itself. Sometimes that may be finding humor in an experience, appreciating the blessings of today, or holding each other’s hands during a hard time.

6. How was your family impacted when chosen to receive help from our Helping Hands Fund?
We were relieved of some of our lodging costs during our stay in Boston.

7. How did you hear about Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation?
Social worker at MGH.

 



Angelo’s Story

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Child Name: Angelo
Diagnosis: Burkett Lymphoma
State: CA
Program: Camp Scholarship Program
Date Helped: February 2017

Angelo Yu survived the treatment against 4th stage Burkett Lymphoma in the head. His remission started in 2014. He went back to school hesitant and scared. He had this feeling of being someone different. It started from his outlook for losing his hair, his fear towards unfriendly reactions from peers, or from all sorts of anxiety that he was getting out of his predicament.

It is really hard for a child to accept the changes that are taking place with him. We can sense that, even if he would just say he is alright. His gestures and the way he gets along with other children was somewhat affected by his lack of self-esteem.

He used to run as fast as he could, but now his vision, as damaged by the tumor, keeps him from doing that. He was good at mathematics and reading but now the fonts are getting harder to see. He would just cry containing his excitement to say his topic at you when he would forget it seconds after waiting for your head to turn to him. It was a very frustrating situation and so much more struggle within.

We are so grateful that Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation has granted Angelo the funds to pursue his dream of being able to learn music. For such a wonderful support that was given to Angelo, he develops his skills through piano lessons and has been performing in recitals with the Yamaha Music School.

Through playing the piano, he has overcome his short-term memory loss and has gained as much self-confidence as possible.

May this foundation continue to support children, especially those with a disability as a result of their cancer, bring back their normal way of living. More power.



Serena’s Story

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Child Name: Serena
Age: 15
Diagnosis: ALL
State: NV
Program: Camp Scholarships Program

 

1. Cancer. When did this word enter your life? When did your child go into remission?
January 23, 2017

2. How has cancer affected your family in a positive and/or negative way?
I hate seeing my daughter go through her hard days but they aren’t so many. She had a hard month but does well now since doctors figured out the source of her pain and could treat it. It’s also great to see how nice people can be when they see you going through a trial like this.

3. What has been the biggest challenge or struggle during your child’s treatment?
Stomach pain, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and stress make me emotional which makes Serena emotional as well.

4. How have you and your family stayed mentally and emotionally healthy?
Yes, because of my fiancé. He helps with her appointments, which are hard for me. We try to keep everything the same. We also exercise and do fun things together as much as possible.

5. What has brought the most joy or fun to your family’s life during your child’s treatment?
Seeing how kind those around us are reacting through this trial.

6. How was your family impacted when chosen to receive help from our Helping Hands Fund?
I was poor as a child and once I became a mom, soon after I became a single mom for 8 years. I appreciate every little bit of help I get. I don’t know how to express my gratitude enough, especially because I am not used to asking for help. Thank you!

7. How did you hear about Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation?
Through National Childhood Cancer Foundation.

8. Is there something about your circumstance that is unique? If so, please explain.
My daughter was the captain of her school volleyball team and thriving in every way! It was a fluke that we caught it. We caught it with monthly blood tests. We are so thankful we caught it early!

 



Ryder’s Story

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Child Name: Ryder
Age: 10
State: PA
Program: Bear-Able Gifts
Date Helped: February 2017

 

1. Cancer. When did this word enter your life? When did your child go into remission?
Jan. 13, 2017. Ryder woke up Jan. 11th with a headache and vomiting that was relieved with Tylenol. The next two days he went to school and was playing around with the neighborhood with friends. Friday morning, the 13th, Ryder woke up with the worst headache of his life and was violently vomiting. We took him to the ER and requested a CT scan. They found the tumor on the CT scan. Ryder was then transferred to Hershey via ambulance where a team of neurosurgeons waited for us. Ryder had emergency surgery to alleviate pressure on his brain caused by fluid. We went home Jan. 16th. Ryder was healing well waiting for chemotherapy to start. On Jan. 23rd, Ryder started leaking from his incision. We were admitted again for emergency brain surgery to alleviate the pressure and fluid build up. They kept him in the hospital for observation and a plan. They decided that while he was admitted they would take him 2 days later for surgery to place his port and do an LP. Then on the 29th, his body was producing too much fluid so they decided they needed to take him back for a 4th surgery to place a shunt from his brain to his abdomen. Finally, on Feb. 9th Ryder was able to start his first round of chemo. He gets 2 medications for 3 days in a row and then is allowed to rest the next 2 weeks. The cycle then starts all over again for 4 times. After that, we will move on to radiation 5 days a week for 5 weeks. Traveling to CHOP every day will be a challenge.

2. How has cancer affected your family in a positive and/or negative way?
The negative is obvious.. our child has cancer. The positive is definitely seeing our son rise up to the challenge and fight the battle of his life. Ryder is the most positive, uplifting, determined, awe-inspiring person I know. Cancer is not stopping him. We are humbled by the outpouring support we have been receiving from our entire family, community, and friends. This has definitely pulled us closer as a family. We continually thank God for all of the incredibly amazing care Ryder has been receiving.

3. What has been the biggest challenge or struggle during your child’s treatment?
Ryder misses school and his friends so much. His blood counts have been low and it’s flu season so we are trying to limit visitors and staying home. A big struggle has also been the fact that I have been unable to work much while staying home to care for Ryder. We are definitely a two income household and losing one income is going to be tough for a while.

4. How have you and your family stayed mentally and emotionally healthy?
We laugh a lot. We have a motto that I started right after diagnosis. It’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be angry… but it is never for one second, okay to think you are not going to be okay. We talk about it often and Ryder asks a lot of great questions.

5. What has brought the most joy or fun to your family’s life during your child’s treatment?Ryder has been getting mail and packages EVERY day since his diagnosis from all over the country. He gets cards from all of the different schools in our district and he loves reading each and every one of them.

6. How was your family impacted when chosen to receive help from our Bear-Able Gifts Program?
Ryder received a care box of games and activities that he brought with him to the hospital for chemotherapy to keep him busy!