Nobody expects to hear the words “Your child has cancer.” Nobody is prepared. And in our family’s case, our son Emmett was diagnosed with leukemia in an emergency room, and treatment began that day in the ICU. We had no time at all to prepare, or even to comprehend it all at the time.
Hank was 7 years old when he was diagnosed with a stage IV Wilms’ tumor last year.
The tumor started in his left kidney – all Wilms’ tumors begin in one of the kidneys – and by the time it was found, it was the size of his head and had spread to his abdomen and both lungs.
Although Alexis is only 9 years old, cancer has been a part of her young life for nearly three years. Long trips from Jamestown to Roswell Park for treatment are not easy, but she finds ways to stay posititve by listening to her favorite music, staying active and embracing those around her.
In my 30 years on this planet, I have been relatively – and thankfully – unaffected by cancer. My family and I have been blessed with mostly good health. As a journalist, I’ve written a little about a lot of things. One assignment, in particular, will stick with me forever. I met Ella in 2011. Ella had been battling a rare and aggressive type of cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma since being diagnosed as a toddler.
Remarkable progress has been made in pediatric cancer over the past two decades. More than 75 percent of children diagnosed with cancer will be long-term survivors. But treatments that help children survive – like chemotherapy and radiation – wreak havoc on their bodies years later.
As kids grow, their muscles, tendons and ligaments grow as well. So when they complain about aches and pains, it’s often due to the rapid pace of their developing bodies. But if the pain persists, or the pain is coupled with other ailments, it might be something more serious.
When Dr. Donald Pinkel graduated from medical school at the University of Buffalo in 1951, the world was a pretty dark place for kids with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). They didn’t live long after diagnosis, and experts in the field of blood cancer were convinced the disease was incurable.