Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Collateral Damage and Why We Train

When my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, merely surviving wasn't good enough. I wasn't willing to accept collateral damage. She had been perfectly healthy before cancer, and I expected her to be perfectly healthy after.

We all know chemotherapy carries horrible side effects. Vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, infections. Yet we don't realize survivors often go on to battle long term complications even after their treatment has ended. This is especially true for survivors of pediatric cancer.

Almost 75% of survivors of pediatric cancer will go on to have a chronic health problem within 30 years of their diagnosis. Let's break that down. Three out of every four survivors will face a chronic disease by their 30s or 40s.

I couldn't help but thinking about this as I watched my daughter swim last night at swim team time trials. As she dove into the water, red hair tucked carelessly under her swim cap, you would never guess she was one of the few, lucky enough not only to survive, but to survive without complications.

We will cure cancer. I believe that. The tools are within our grasp.

We will find safer treatments. Treatments so specific to cancer cells, that they zoom past all of those healthy, developing organs and straight to the bad guys.

But the only way we will do this is if we continue to fight. Continue to spread the word. Continue to raise funds and awareness.

My husband and I are both currently fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through Team in Training. Why?
  • Innovative research and its real-world success in the pediatric population. Pediatric ALL and AML treatments have improved more rapidly than many other pediatric cancers over the past few decades. The reasons for this are complex, but I believe LLS's role in research has been a factor. 
  • Unparalleled patient support. In fact, I am starting to volunteer with the North Carolina Chapter's first connection program
  • Political action that has been invaluable in combating issues such as the methotrexate shortage which affected pediatric patients as well as prescription drug coverage issues that make safe and effective oral chemotherapy difficult for many to obtain.

I believe in LLS. Their impact is felt beyond the world of blood cancers. Their mission helps patients survive and survivors lead better lives. This is why we train.

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