Hope, Even Through Heartache

In

Right now, hundreds of thousands of American families are in the fight against childhood cancer, and every two minutes — another child will receive the diagnosis.

Sadly, childhood cancer is the number one disease killer of children in the United States, and according to reports, a quarter of those who are diagnosed will not survive. It’s a devastating battle, and since the average age of diagnosis is six, many children who survive their initial battle have to continue being monitored and treated well into their teenage and young adult years.

Worldwide, the statistics are just as haunting: 80% of kids who are diagnosd with cancer are in developing countries.

There are always reasons for optimism, though. In the 1950s, the survival rate for the most common childhood cancer — acute lymphoblastic leukemia — was almost 0. Today, thanks to research and new treatments, about 90% of kids with ALL will survive.

Also, clinical trials that are proving successful in adults (like the ones that our own Wendy Chioji takes part in and credits for extending her life!) are giving doctors new insights into how cancer grows in younger people.

And finally — the kids themselves give us hope.

So many brave girls, boys and families are Growing Bolder. They are Surviving & Thriving despite the odds, and showing all of us the power of belief.

At the age of 14, Benji Watson was diagnosed with cancer. Even while he was still fighting cancer himself, he made a vow that when he got healthy, he’d return to the hospital to make a difference. And that’s exactly what’s he done.

Learn about the foundation he and his family started to help other families going through cancer deal with the essentials, such as paying bills.

When we first met 13-year-old Talia Joy Castellano, she’d already been battling cancer for more than half of her young life. She was also a rising YouTube star thanks to her makeup tutorials and she had two dreams — to appear on Ellen’s talk show and to spread the word about the dire need for funding to cure pediatric cancer. She lived to see both dreams come true.

Talia battled until her last breath to spread the word that cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children in the United States but research to find a cure is tragically underfunded. In fact, in the past 25 years ONLY ONE new cancer drug has been approved for pediatric cancer. We spoke to Talia’s mother about her daughter’s final wish.

Can a cancer diagnosis actually be a blessing in disguise? At the age of 3, Benjamin Irish was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. While undergoing his cancer treatments, his doctors made a frightening discovery — Ben had a heart defect that could result in sudden death. In a twist of fate, his cancer likely saved his life.

He and his mother tell us about Ben’s roller coaster ride to good health.

Lauren Larsen was diagnosed with autism when she was three years old. She did not speak at all. Four weeks later she was diagnosed with acute lymphocratic leukemia. The first six months of intense chemo were done when she could not even speak. She spent two and a half years on chemo and after six months of treatment did speak!

Lauren’s mother shared her story here.

Learn more about efforts to fund childhood cancer research and support other stories of Surviving & Thriving: