Welcome to Four Square Clobbers Cancer!

foursquarecourt2.jpgFour-Square Clobbers Cancer is a conversational blog that is dedicated to improving the outcomes of children, adolescents, and young adults who are being treated or have been treated for cancer.  The goal is to inform, communicate and collaborate with those in the cancer community.


Four-Square is a very popular game played by children, adolescents and even young adults.   Following the rules and reacting to the constant changing path of a big orange ball, the object is to stay in the game as long as possible.  It’s kind of like the game of life,  where the object is to react favorably to the fast, changing  things that come your way,  stay healthy, live as long as possible and have fun.

Four-Square by definition is also used as an adjective that means firm and resolute, especially in support of someone or something.  “We stand four-square in our conviction to improve the therapies and outcomes of children, adolescents, and young adults with cancer.”bounceball

Clobber is actually a term used in the game of Four-Square and,  coincidently, it means the same thing in the game of life.  It’s what everyone wants to do to cancer!

Complete information about Four Square Clobbers Cancer and it’s bloggers can be found by clicking the “About” tab on the menu bar at the top of the page.

BestCare_edited-1If you found this site because you have recently heard, “Your child has cancer,” this article is a must read if you are trying to decide, “What next?”  The advice given is invaluable and will help you on your journey down this uncertain road.

Legislation_edited-2Are you familiar with all the legislation that may impact children with cancer? Here’s a good way to find out what is going on and to figure out how you would answer the question, “Where do you stand?”

Hey race fans, Greg Puryear and others want to paint NASCAR gold! We are going along for the ride, won’t you help too?



Posted in Childhood Cancer, Pediatric Cancer, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

September in Our Capitol

SeptinWash_edited-1September 2014 in our nations capitol will be full of activities that will highlight the need for more medical research and an opportunity to show our government that we need to make childhood cancer a national priority.

Below is a schedule of activities that you may find interesting.  As additional information is received, this page will be updated weekly.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) will be honoring those who have been touched by cancer and remembering those lost, with a Lights of Hope 8393404216_550b3d4f64_zceremony during the 2014 Leadership Summit and Lobby Day in Washington D.C.

Lights of Hope bearing the names of those touched by cancer will line the Capitol Reflecting Pool the evening of September 16, 2014 in an experience to fight back against cancer at the Nation’s Capitol. For additional information, please contact David Pugach at david.pugach@cancer.org .

Wednesday, September 17, 2014,  4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Rally for Medical Research Hill Day Training Session and Reception

2014-07-07 12.12.54 pmThe Rally for Medical Research (www.rallyformedicalresearch.org) is both a call to action for Congress to make medical research a national priority, and a means by which to raise awareness with the general public about the importance of continued investment in medical research through the National Institutes of Health.  For more information, contact Mary Lee Watts (marylee.watts@aacr.org) or Jon Retzlaff (jon.retzlaff@aacr.org).  Register to attend here!

 Thursday, September 18, 2014,  8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Rally for Medical Research Hill Day Breakfast Program and Congressional Meetings.  

Meetings will be held for participants with their individual Senators and Congressional Representatives. It’s a great opportunity to meet the people from your state and district that are representing you in Washington. This is your opportunity to let them know how valuable research is to you, your family, and our economy.  For more information, contact Mary Lee Watts (marylee.watts@aacr.org) or Jon Retzlaff (jon.retzlaff@aacr.org). Register here to attend.

Thursday, September 18, 2014,  4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

 A Golden Toast Honoring Congressmen Michael McCaul and Congressman Chris Van Holland, Co Chairs of  The Congressional Childhood Cancer Caucus.


This is a invitation only event to be held at Bar 201 in Washington, DC.

The event marks the fifth year of the cancer caucus and will  honor the Congressmen and their staffs for the tireless work they have invested over the years.

For more information, contact Annette Leslie (carrymecarson@gmail.com)


Thursday, September 18, 2014,   6:30 p.m. to  9:30 p.m.

2014 Hyundai Hope on Wheels Gala

IMG_2902This is a invitation only event.  Hyundai Motor Company will be celebrating sixteen years involvement and over $80,000,000 in grants and contributions to childhood cancer research they have made during that time. For this wonderful event, Hyundai will bring together some of their top participating dealers, researchers, oncologists, representatives of major medical institutions and the object of everyone’s attention, the children and their families that have been affected by cancer.

Friday, September 19, 2014   9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Childhood Cancer Caucus Summit

Keynote Address: Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institute of Health

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington D.C.The Childhood Cancer Caucus (www.childhoodcancer-mccaul.house.gov) is a bipartisan caucus serving as a public policy clearinghouse for information on pediatric cancer and to be a forum for Members of Congress to work together to address this critical issue. The Caucus of over 100 congressional members strives to raise awareness about pediatric cancer, advocate in support of measures to prevent the pain, suffering and long-term effects of childhood cancers, and work toward the goal of eliminating cancer as a threat to all children. Congressmen Michael McCaul and Chris Van Hollen serve as the Co-Chairs of the Childhood Cancer Caucus.  For more information, contact Andy Taylor (Andy.Taylor@Mail.House.Gov) or Erika Appel (Erika.Appel@mail.house.gov)

Saturday, September 20, 2014  Tentatively 4 p.m. ~7:00 p.m.

CureFest Welcome Reception

nationals_park_entrance_343x189A welcoming event the night before at Nationals’ Stadium. This is the home of the Washington Nationals baseball team. This event is intended to be a casual family-friendly event being hosted by a group of foundations from the Washington-area. Additional details will be available July 1.

Saturday, September 20, 2014  Dusk ~8:00 p.m

A Night of Golden Light

WhiteHouse_LogoA Night of Golden Light is a CureFest candlelight rally to honor the children taken by cancer and all those still in the fight. Children, their families and advocates will gather in front of the White House holding gold lights. The mission of the rally is to generate public awareness for childhood cancer. For more information, contact Tony Stoddard (goldinseptember@comcast.net)

 Sunday, September 21, 2014  9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

CureFest Event

CureFest is an annual festival in Washington, DC that is the key component of the growing childhood cancer movement. CureFest is held in the Nation’s Capital in an effort to make childhood cancer a national priority. It is an opportunity for the childhood cancer community, the general public and elected leaders to come together as One Voice against childhood cancer. The ultimate goal is safer treatments and better outcomes for children diagnosed with cancer.

Curefestmall_edited-1Over 100 childhood cancer foundations and groups are expected to attend CureFest. (Last year 51 foundations and groups attended.) Over 1,000 individuals have indicated they will be attending, including over 300 volunteers. It is a family-friendly event with games and activities for all ages. The event will include live music, entertainment, and speeches by prominent pediatric oncologists, elected leaders, as well as children and adults impacted by childhood cancer. Dr. Peter Adamson, the Chair of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG, a pediatric cancer clinical trial network) will provide a keynote address. Featured will be moving tributes for children who have or have had cancer. The National Park Service agreed to allow us to host CureFest on the newly-renovated main Mall close to the U.S. Capitol. This is a much more prominent location and is very close to public transportation, food vendors and public restrooms.

CureFest Walk

For the first time, CureFest will include a 3-mile walk on the National Mall. Participants will enjoy historic views of the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, The World War II Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial and The White House.

372469d4208597ea4c29e2dc005a1395The CureFest Walk was added for several reasons: One reason was to increase participation by the general public. Successful charity walks in the Washington-area typically start small but eventually attract several thousand participants within a few years of being established. There is a $20 per person registration fee to help offset the costs of the event. Fees are waived for families directly impacted by childhood cancer.  A second reason is to provide foundations with a way to raise funds for their individual missions. When participants register for the Walk they will be have the option to raise funds for any childhood cancer foundation or group that endorses CureFest. Foundations do not have to attend the event but must be an established 501(c)3 charity in order to receive funds. Payments will be distributed to foundations through Crowdrise.

Online Auction

Last year half of the 51 organizations that attended CureFest indicated that they could not afford to pay an event registration fee of any kind. This meant that two foundations (Journey4aCure and Arms Wide Open Childhood Cancer Foundation) had to use their funds to cover the bulk of CureFest’s costs.

To pay for the operational expenses of CureFest (permits, security and rentals of tents, tables, chairs, generators, portable toilets, a stage and more) we are hosting an online auction through 24 Auctions. Our goal is to raise approximately $30,000 though the auction which opens on August 7. In order to reach this goal we will need the support of several childhood cancer foundations and advocates. Donations to the auction are being accepted at this time at https://www.24fundraiser.com/curefest

All proceeds from the auction and walk registration fee will be used to help offset the costs of CureFest. All foundations will have the opportunity to benefit from funds raised through the CureFest Walk and from donations received at the event on September 21, 2014

A website, www.curefestdc.org ith all the details is now available. For more information about Curefest, contact Mike Gillette (mike@thetruth365.org)

Author: Joe Baber


Posted in Childhood Cancer, Pediatric Cancer, Rare Disease, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seeing is Believing:

WhyICare_edited-1I am planning to write a series of posts that pertain to clinical issues, like palliative care services for improving outcomes in childhood cancer, but I wanted to take a step back and give some background first, especially about my time at St. Jude Children’s Hospital as a visiting student/intern back in late 1997. As I detailed in my introductory post from last year, “What’s MMMT got to do with it?,”  I have no personal experience with childhood cancer but joined the childhood cancer community after watching my mother suffer from a cac2logovery rare and aggressive gynecologic tumor. Cancer is bad to begin with, but my mom’s ordeal was extra bad on so many levels. No one should go through that—not my mom, and certainly not a child. I am a mother of two young girls and follow the “kids first” mantra. Kids first, always, right? Cancer research being no exception, right? But as you know, kids are NOT first, and that is so WRONG! I cannot understand or accept that, and that is why I am here. In addition to being a blogger, I am also an individual member of the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer (CAC2), where I have gotten involved in several different ways. I don’t know how I find the time, but I do, and I sleep better at night because of it.

I hate cancer but love oncology, meaning that cancer is Public Enemy #1 in my book, yet I am fascinated by tumor biology and the nuances of cancer drugs. My degree is in pharmacy, and I was trained as a clinical oncology pharmacist. Many people have never heard of “clinical pharmacists”, who practice in the hospital/clinic setting, but I can assure you that these folks do exist and are very different than the more conventional “retail pharmacists”. Ask any of my former classmates about me, and they probably would say that I was “into oncology.” As discussed in my prior post Gold vs Pink, this interest and passion stemmed from my maternal grandmother’s battle with breast cancer, which did not have a happy ending. Anytime I would hear the words cancer or chemotherapy, my ears would perk up, because I wanted to have a better understanding of what cancer is and why it is so darn hard to treat. So I decided to devote my training to oncology pharmacy. Among the many requirements to obtain a pharmacy degree, a big one is the need to amass hours as an intern at a pharmacy. Most students opt for the typical retail experience, but I did 100% of my nearly 1,000 hours at the outpatient pharmacy of the LaurieChemohoodUniversity of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Much of my time was spent “under the hood” mixing chemotherapy and shadowing the pharmacists by checking orders. Because the outpatient pharmacy also housed an Investigational Drug Service, I also got some clinical research experience. I spent lots of time in an old closet with no windows, counting tamoxifen tablets as part of the drug accountability for numerous breast cancer studies. I quickly became very knowledgeable about cancer drugs, despite enduring some of these mundane tasks that nobody else wanted to do—and thus were delegated to the lowly student.

I had gained massive experience in adult cancer treatments during those nearly 4 years as a student intern. I also had an inherent interest in general pediatric medicine. So in planning my 1 year of clinical clerkships/rotations required for my doctorate of LaurieID_edited-1pharmacy(called a “PharmD”) degree, I jumped on an opportunity to travel to Memphis to do a pediatric oncology rotation at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. That was the 6 weeks leading up to Christmas 1997.

My time at St. Jude was the most eye-opening, unforgettable 6 weeks of my life. I often wonder, if it were not for my time at St. Jude, would I have made my way to the childhood cancer community as a volunteer? I would say, probably not. I was assigned to the Leukemia/Lymphoma service. All of the children without exception were treated per-protocol in a clinical trial. My job, as a clinical pharmacist in training, was to round with the medical team, review all of the patient charts, and recommend any necessary adjustments to supportive care aspects. I’ll explain more about clinical pharmacy services in a later post, but I will just note that my responsibilities were to work with the physicians and nurses to ensure optimal management of things like pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, bone marrow suppression, and nutrition. I remember our youngest patient on service, a tiny infant diagnosed with cancer shortly after birth, which shocked me because I did not realize until then that babies get cancer. I also remember a boy that I encountered in the emergency room, who was about 6 years old and had been hit in the arm playing baseball, in that exact spot where he had a tumor. It was only discovered because of the imaging done as the result of his injury. I was young, had no children then, but I felt for those parents and was frightened by that chain of events. I remember thinking, how do you deal with something like that, where a child gets injured playing a sport and winds up with a diagnosis of cancer that very same day? During my time on service, the leukemia/lymphoma patients were “doing well” overall, meaning they were fairly stable and tolerating treatment as best as could be expected; however, the acute myeloid leukemia (AML) subset was having a tougher time than the rest. The mood, overall, was tenuous at best. There were some things happening on the Solid Tumor service. Two children who had been fighting for quite some time had passed away. Keep in mind that this was during the holiday season, so it made the unbearable all the more heart-wrenching for the staff who had come to know and love these kids.

I’ll close with the encounter that I remember most vividly during my time at St. Jude. During one of my last days there, I was asked to deliver and provide patient/parent education on some discharge medication, some oral antibiotics and a few other fairly routine meds. As I started yapping, I locked eyes with the child’s mom who looked so beyond exhausted and stared back with the blankest look, she looked utterly traumatized. interior_1_525_350I knew that there was no way that she was really hearing a single word that I was saying, that there was no way her brain could process one more piece of information. That look really stuck with me, how those parents had been through hell and that it was far from over—and they knew it. In my prior rotations, the time of discharge was a fairly upbeat time, people were relieved to be getting their freedom back. In this case, however, these parents were leaving the hospital they had been practically living in – but leaving with a child who very much still has cancer. There was no relief or freedom to be had.

Needless to say, those 6 weeks at St. Jude were emotionally draining. But they gave me perspective that I would never have gained elsewhere, and I am a better person because of it. Somtimes you have to see to believe—by seeing those kids and parents, I know that kids must come first in the cancer research arena. Maybe more people need to see it to believe it too, maybe that would get people like me – those who have not been personally affected by childhood cancer – to see how improving childhood cancer funding needs to be a national priority, not just a priority for those who have been dealt the blow firsthand. It is not like it would take 6 weeks for the lightbulb to go on, 6 minutes would be enough for sure.

Author: Laurie Orloski


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Five Reasons Why You Should Join the Fight Against Cancer

Team Captain:

Amanda Haddock echoes the thoughts of a few other visionaries in the cancer arena. “We live in the Information Age, but research information is in silos that are hard to access. We need the power of the data in every researcher’s hand.” Read her very insightful blog post. Team Captain

Originally posted on This Grey Matters Blog:

20140629-230537-83137451.jpgWhen we first announced the name of our foundation, people thought we were a little crazy. I understand that the name is unconventional, but so is our goal. It is different. Some might say impossible. So our name reflects not only the enormity of the task, but also that we plan to be successful.

Scientists have been fighting cancer for decades. We have made some advances to be sure, but we are a long way from declaring victory. There are many warriors in this battle, but no united force bringing them together. We live in the Information Age, but research information is in silos that are hard to access. We need the power of the data in every researcher’s hand.

I believe that most people believe, like I did, that there are vast resources available to cancer researchers. That is not the case. There are excellent pockets of data out…

View original 761 more words

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30% Funding Cuts

30%_edited-1Just weeks before she died of a brain tumor, ten-year-old Gabriella Miller put it best. When asked what message she would give to the nation’s political leaders about the need for children’s cancer research, she responded in a YouTube video that went viral: “Talk is bull___! We need action.”

StepUpsadstate_edited-1Cancer kills more children in the U.S. than any other disease — more than AIDS, asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and congenital anomalies combined. Yet government funding for pediatric cancer research through the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has declined by 30 percent over the last decade, with further significant cuts looming. Even without these cuts, only 4% of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) budget goes to pediatric cancer research.

This lack of government support is hurting children already struggling for their lives. Since the number of children and teens in this country diagnosed each year with cancer is a small fraction of the number of adults diagnosed, drug companies see no profit in children’s cancer, and largely ignore it. Thus, while the pharmaceutical industry provides up to 60% of all research and development for adult cancer, it provides virtually none for children’s cancer, making pediatric cancer research almost entirely dependent on government funding through the NCI.

71LifeYears_edited-3True, there have been tremendous gains in survival rates for children with cancer, from 30 percent some decades ago to about 80 percent today. Such statistics are both hopeful and misleading: “survival rates” for cancer are typically measured after five years. For adult cancers, where the average age of the diagnosis is the late 60s, five years can make all the difference; for children, who on average are diagnosed at age 6, five years means not making it to high school.

What’s more, three out of five children who survive cancer suffer chronic side-effects, and many face life-threatening illnesses such as heart failure and secondary cancers. The reasons are clear: the significant gains in childhood cancer survival rates are the result of giving children “hand-me-down” drugs developed for biologically distinct adult cancers. Children’s bodies can withstand more surgeries, radiation and toxins, but for those who make it through the cancers and the immediate treatments, it is hardly surprising that the long-term side-effects are severe.

Without the profit incentive or sufficient government funding, few if any new drugs are developed for children. Despite revolutionary changes in science and technology, the FDA has approved only two drugs over the last twenty years specifically for pediatric cancer, and one-half of all the chemotherapies used for children’s cancers are over 25 years old.

GabriellaAppropriate_edited-2The response from our political leaders has been talk, but sadly, no action. In reaction to Gabriella’s plea on YouTube, Congress last year did pass the “Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act,” which would provide about $12 million per year for a variety of pediatric diseases. However, there are reasons to doubt that the act, pushed by now-deposed House Leader Eric Cantor, will ever lead to any actual funding in the present do-nothing Congress. In 2008, both houses unanimously passed the “Conquer Childhood Cancer Act,” which authorized $30 million a year for pediatric cancer research, but they never bothered to allocate more than a miniscule fraction of that sum, and then failed to reauthorize the Act when it expired last year. No wonder ten-year-old Gabriella cursed.

Recent scientific advances have uncovered much of the molecular and genetic makeup of childhood cancers, making it possible to develop therapies – precision medicine – that directly target cancer cells and spare children’s developing bodies. Yet while the NCI will direct tens of millions of dollars in funding this year to take advantage of the latest breakthroughs and technologies for adult cancer, there is no such funding planned for children’s cancer. This is despite the fact that support for pediatric cancer research has provided one of the best returns on investment of government funded medical research.

Children’s cancer advocates are starting to mobilize. Over 250 advocates from 34 states will descend on Capitol Hill this week, representing over 60 childhood cancer organizations. At the same time a coordinated childhood cancer community social media effort will send thousands of advocates virtually to storm Congress under the campaign banner #StepUp: More Funding for Childhood Cancer Research. All advocates are working together to send the message that suffering children must no longer be the collateral damage of partisan budget battles. While it’s too late for Gabriella, we will continue to press on until her call for action is heard.

Author: Steven Crowley

Originally published in TheHill (  @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook)



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Ellie’s Hats

Ellie'sHats_edited-1Last year, school had started once again as usual, but for the first time in the PE class that I was JayandEllieteaching, I had a cute little girl who was bald headed. Ellie started kindergarten as a brave, beautiful girl without hair. She was on chemotherapy, battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She loved wearing hats. When I saw how much she liked hats, I decided to add a few more crazy hats to her collection for Christmas. After sharing my plan with friends , family and neighbors, I found that they wanted to provide hats too. Hats started rolling in, and soon I had gathered more hats than even Ellie could wear. Realizing that many children facing the trials of childhood cancer are treated at Inova Fairfax Hospital, I launched a campaign to collect enough hats for all of the children being treated for cancer at the hospital. Over 140 hats were delivered to an annual Christmas party, where they were handed out to all kids in attendance. Upon leaving the party , Ellie said to her mom, “I think they like my hats!” Seeing the joy the hats brought to Ellie and others was the motivation I needed to start our Ellie’s Hats organization.

Ellie’s father shared his thoughts, “I know it’s easy to look at all this and ask, what is the big deal with giving hats? Of course, our daughter’s hat collection is not going to cure her cancer. But that’s really not the point. It’s an example of something that has helped make SeptCountTwitterthis season in which she is fighting cancer less hard for her. Ellie’s crazy hats have allowed her to feel more like a normal kid when she is experiencing things that are not normal at all, that are thankfully not what most kids will have to experience in their childhoods. These hats mean something to her. And based on what I saw at a Christmas party at the hospital when donated hats were given to all the kids in attendance and what I’ve heard from our clinic staff regarding the numerous hats distributed there, these hats mean something to many other kids as well. After Ellie beats her cancer, I am hopeful that hats will continue to make their way to the heads of other children fighting cancer in the years to come. I haven’t begun to consider how I will view this long cancer season when I look back years from now, but Ellie’s Hats would make a neat legacy.”

Some feedback that we have received

“I just want to say thank you so much for the hats! The patients and parents alike absolutely LOVE them!”

“The kids LOVE the hats…. The nurses think they are beautiful.”

“Dylan and Daniel’s hats came in today and they love them.”

“Thank you for your cause, it is making a difference”

“We received a special little box of hats in the mail today. Oh, were the kids excited! Thank you! “

“My boys love their new hats! I think Ellie’s Hats is an amazing program. We are honored to have received hats. Thanks so much!”Ellie

Since we started Ellie’s Hats we have seen classes and schools hold hat drives, teenagers raise money, workplaces donate, kids request people bring hats instead of gifts to their birthday parties, and lots of other creative ideas! All of these initiatives bring joy, but also spread awareness about childhood cancer and for that we are so grateful. We must be doing something right! I will never forget the little girl who started it all. Thank you, Ellie!

Author: Jay Coakley

Editor’s Note:  Here’s a great example of someone who does not have a child with cancer, but cares and wants to help.  What a great role model for others.  The childhood cancer community thanks you, Jay!  If you would like to help Jay with Ellie’s Hats, you can visit their website and their Facebook page.



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A Home Away From Home

LadybugHouse_edited-3Meet Suzanne Corey Gwynn. She’s going to build a house in Seattle, Washington.  It’s not going to be a small little house, but a big house.  Suzanne is not an architect with a blueprint or even a carpenter with a hammer.  She’s a registered nurse with a vision and the house she is going to build is no ordinary house.

Suzanne has spent the last 30 years being a nurse and intensely caring for children and young adults with life limiting and very serious illnesses. A huge number of the patients she cared for were from other states that do not have a children’s hospital, therefore many   of the families were forced to temporarily relocate to the Seattle area for specific specialized care that was unavailable in the region nearest to their home. She has watched the children deal with their illness and watched their families while they attempted to be there and support their child and live away from home near the hospital.

The vision that Suzanne has is to build a palliative care and hospice home to serve all the families who need it so desperately.  Seattle Washington is a unique and prime location for a home to be established, specifically because Seattle’s premier hospital systems serve   ladybug_edited-2patients from the states of  Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. This is where her “Ladybug House” will serve a special purpose for these patients and families. It will be a place for families from near and far to live together in community, growing and supporting each other through life-limiting illness.

Ladybug House is a pioneering service that will add to the palliative care that already exists in the hospital setting by creating an environment where that same level of care can be provided in a community home setting equipped to care for complex diseases.  One priority in current palliative care is enabling people to be cared for in the place of their choosing and the hope is that patients and families will find Ladybug House to be the best choice during this essential time. The model of care at Ladybug House will be  holistic, integrative, and life-promoting; these elements together will create a health-enhancing cooperative effect for patients as well as their families and friends.

We salute Suzanne in her efforts to give specialized care to children and adolescents  with life limiting illnesses. The service that Ladybug House will provide is so greatly needed. In the United States there are only 2 palliative care homes for children: George Mark Children’s House in San Leandro, CA and Ryan House in Phoenix, AZ. In the United Kingdom there are 49 homes and our neighbors in Vancouver, BC just built their second home last year.  Hopefully, Ladybug House will be the third in the US with a long chain of others to follow.

Suzanne’s dream has already attracted an amazing team of volunteers. If you would like to know more about Suzanne’s vision or be a part of it, she can be contacted at suzanne@ladybughouse.org.

Author: Joe Baber

Editor’s Note: Because of her efforts and the unique home she plans to build, Suzanne was invited to the White House on June 18th where she was able to collaborate with others and garner more support  for her vision.

Related Article:



 Palliative Care Misunderstood

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Your child has cancer, what next?

You have just been told, “Your child has cancer and they are going to need a lot of care.” No doubt about it, they will, but so are you. In order to properly take care of your child, as the parent you must take care of yourself first. In this article, reprinted from the Courageous Parents Network (CPN), your will learn three key ingredients that will prepare you to give the best care possible to your child. You will also have the opportunity to find a great resource in CPN that you can to use to navigate you on your new journey.  Joe Baber, EditorBestCare_edited-1

Each child is an individual and every family has its own particular patterns, needs, ways of coping and values. Care choices that feel right and work for one family may not feel right or work for another. Thus there is no one formula for caring for a child with a life-limiting or threatening illness. (Yes, the title is misleading!) There are no ‘right choices,’ which also means there are no wrong ones either. However, I am bold to strongly encourage parents to include three ingredients in the care formula they develop for their family, regardless of the specifics of their child’s illness and the treatment protocol. These ingredients are, in my lived experience and that of other parents with whom I have spoken, incredibly helpful in ensuring the greatest peace of mind and spirit and minimal regret when making choices for the child. The addition of these ingredients can have lasting impact on the family experience and how the family writes the narrative of their child’s illness journey, life, and, if it occurs, death.

FlaskBlue_edited-1Ingredient #1: Pediatric Palliative Care  If you have poked around the Courageous Parents Network web site, you know that promoting pediatric palliative care is central to our work. Why? Because we have experienced first-hand the value it adds to the child’s care plan and the impact it has on the entire family. My daughter Cameron received palliative care from her primary care doctor and a team of nurses who cared for her at home. I could go on and on about what it is and why it matters, but you can read about it on the CPN site. However, if you go no further than this blog, here is what I would have you know most about palliative care— Palliative care is NOT END-OF-LIFE care—that is hospice care. It does NOT mean you’ve given up hope for survival or quality-of-life. Quite the opposite: it is an extra layer of care that ideally begins at diagnosis and that helps a family identify their care goals for their child and their family. It looks beyond the disease itself to support the psychological and emotional and spiritual needs of the entire family. It reduces patient and family stress. Its goal is QUALITY OF LIFE. Palliative care specialists share a family’s hope that the child will survive and they also work to hold and pursue the family’s care goals so as to keep the parents oriented when things start feeling crazy or confusing. Palliative care just makes everything better.

FlaskRed_edited-1Ingredient #2: Grief Counseling   You may say that therapy isn’t for you, or that you don’t have time to take for yourself, or that you’re in coping mode and aren’t officially grieving. I would encourage you to think otherwise, to open your mind to the value that grief counseling can offer you, your spouse/partner if appropriate, and thus, by extension your child and entire family.

When your child is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, you immediately start grieving. Grief counseling is a place to park your sadness and anxieties and to work through your concerns and wishes to figure out what you really want for your child and family. It is a place to grieve, to release your emotions, and to express your wishes. It is an opportunity to get really really dark and to then find signs of light. It is a place for two parents to wrestle with their respective differences in a safe and facilitated environment and hopefully find common ground.

Grief counselors come in many forms: psychologists, social workers, hospital chaplains, ministers, rabbis, other spiritual leaders. You’ll need to find one that works for you. There are some (funny) bad stories out there from parents who had a few false starts in their quest for a grief counselor. My husband’s and my first attempt, for example, was a woman who met us in her home office and started dead-heading her potted plants while she pretended to listen to us. She also told us that she understood what we were going through because her granddaughter had had a scare with illness but luckily the test was a false positive and she was fine (hello?!). Another parent shared with me that in her very first attempt at counseling with her husband the counselor wanted to know what impact the son’s illness was having on their sex life! (Hellooooo???!!!!) Please, laugh at these stories but do not be daunted! We found a fabulous counselor on our second try and we credit her with keeping us sane, keeping us married, and giving us a road map for caring for our daughter all the way through to her end-of life and beyond. She also counseled our older daughter. We first saw her once a month (and turned it into a date), then every other week, and by the end, we were seeing her every week. (I like to joke that I would have moved her into the house if I could have!) There’s no requisite number of visits, of course: once a week, once a month, every-other-month, on-demand as needed. What matters is that you have someone you like who practices active listening and helps you hear yourself, hear your spouse/partner, and find your way. Remember, like the flight attendants say on the airplane, you can’t truly take care of your child if you’re not taking care of yourself. Counseling is a gift you give yourself, your partner, and your family.

To find a grief counselor, check with your primary care doctor, the palliative care team, the hospital where your child is being seen, your place of worship, your friends. It can take a few false starts but I promise you will thank yourself for the effort. Grief counseling helps you feel like you’re in control and truly parenting.

flaskGreen_edited-1Ingredient #3: Other parents who are walking in your shoes   Parents caring for children with life-limiting illness need the company and counsel of those who they know really really really understand, people who will answer questions head-on without reservation or platitudes, who will speak frankly about the hard stuff—like how they feel trapped or what end-of-life looks like—who will use inappropriate humor unapologetically to offset the pain. These people are not the professional clinicians who, with rare exception, have not actually walked in these parents’ shoes: rather, they are fellow parents whose children are also living with a life-limiting illness. And it doesn’t even need to be the same diagnosis. The symptoms are only a piece of the puzzle. The emotional roller-coaster, the fear, the sadness, the anger, the anxiety, the impatience, the daily grinding stresses are the other big(ger) piece that all of these parents have in common. In her memoir, The Still Point of the Turning World and a related New York Times op-ed, Emily Rapp refers to these parents as Dragon Parents: “To prepare throughout a child’s whole life for the loss of that boy or that girl, and then to live with it, takes a new ferocity, a new way of thinking, a new animal.” Ideally, Dragon Parents can find each other in actual support groups where they meet periodically to share and support each other as equals. One of CPN’s advisors refer to the active dynamic in peer support as ‘horizontal lines of communication.’ In my own personal experience, we found this peer support immediately in my brother- and sister-in-law whose son (my nephew) Hayden had the same degenerative disease and was a year further along. We also found it in the annual family conference for National Tay-Sachs and Allied Disease. But if physical groups aren’t a possibility, Facebook groups can fill the gap and bring you into community with like parents around the world. If you can find yourself such a group or even one or two parent allies, it will be a life-line that helps to normalize the abnormal.

CourageousParents_edited-1If we could, Courageous Parents Network would personally find each family a palliative care team, a grief counselor and a parent peer-group. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible, and so Courageous Parents Network tries to bring these resources virtually to parents wherever they are: at home or in the hospital. The CPN site includes information about “anticipatory grief”, the value of palliative care, what “complicated living” looks like, and a framework for making difficult decisions. Our video library features a gifted and experienced grief counselor who frames and normalizes the broad range of issues that parents confront. And perhaps, most importantly, the library features parents talking about their experiences and feelings around these issues, providing a virtual and asynchronous support group. (We are also building a CPN group on Facebook. The goal of all of these resources is to shine a light on the dark places and help parents see that they are not alone and that they can do the hard and important work of caring for their child all the way through, with grace and open hearts and faith.

Author: Blyth Lord

Special thanks to Blyth Lord, Founder of the Courageous Parents Network, for allowing Four Square Clobbers Cancer to reprint “#8—Three ingredients for the best Care Formula ever.” From our point of view, we believe there actually are four ingredients and she may have over looked the forth. The forth ingredient is Courageous Parents Network.


Related article: Palliative Care – Misunderstood


Posted in Childhood Cancer, Pediatric Cancer, Rare Disease, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cameron Week

Cameron Week_edited-1

Editor’s Note: It is with deep respect and profound appreciation for mothers everywhere that Four Square Clobbers Cancer has  chosen Mother’s Day to present Blyth Lord’s touching and tender article from her Courageous Parents Network.

Today is Hump Day in Cameron Week. Cameron Week refers to the five days in May between my daughter Cameron’s birthday – May 4, 1999 – and the day she died – May 9, 2001. Much like spring in New England where we live, Cameron Week sneaks up on us. One minute we’re going about our business as a family of four, and then Wham! we are intensely reminded that we are a family of five with a hole in the middle. Cameron would be 15 this week, but my husband Charlie and I and our daughters Taylor (17) and Eliza (13) agree that she will always be a beautiful and precious 2-year old to us.

I was having lunch with one of Courageous Parents Network’s amazing advisors yesterday and she asked me how we handle Cameron Week. I told her that this year we celebrated her birthday by eating a delicious chocolate cake at dinner (an exceptional treat as I never bake). We went around the table and each said something about Cameron. I went last but when it got to me, I couldn’t speak. I was crying and there were no words. My longing for Cameron’s physical being overwhelmed me and I was undone. Any parent whose child has died knows this undoing: the painful desire to touch one’s child again and knowing that it is one of the few things in this world that Can Not Happen Ever Again. The impossibility of this can make me feel a little crazy. Indeed, I can see how grief could turn a person mad. Thus, I have learned not to pay much attention to this piece of it – to push the longing aside when it starts to rear its head – because honestly there is absolutely Nothing To Be Done and a person can’t sit around all day crying for the impossible. But on Cameron’s birthday, with her photo sitting in the middle of the table, a piece of chocolate cake to my side, I couldn’t ignore it. It was staring at me, I stared back, and I wept.

The other thing I told this friend about Cameron Week is how perfectly situated I think it is. Cameron Week comes around in early May when spring arrives in New England and the glorious green leaf buds burst out on the trees. I remember taking a walk in the woods near our house a few days after her 2nd birthday and a few days before she died, when we knew she was in her last week, and finding the juxtaposition of spring coming while Cameron was leaving to be interesting. Interesting and fitting. As my first blog “Surrender” notes, when she was first diagnosed with her fatal disease, I couldn’t fathom how the natural world was proceeding as always, heedless of our tragedy. But now, 18-months later, I found Nature’s persistent optimism comforting. Spring is Nature’s most hopeful time of year and this hope was soothing to me. Our grief counselor had helped us understand that as Cameron’s body was shutting down, her spirit was getting bigger and bigger. Soon it would get so big it would leave her body and go mix with Nature’s energy. The notion that her energy would go into the universe and mix with the energy that brought us leaves and tulips and birdsong was a good notion.

CourageousParents_edited-1Cameron Week 2014 is a little different for me in that it marks the one-year anniversary of my leaving my job in television production to found Courageous Parents Network. I have spent the last year meeting the most incredible parents and some of their children, listening to them, learning from them, admiring them. I spend my days talking with parents whose children are living with a fatal prognosis or have died, and I am nourished by their stories and their wisdom. Given all of this, I was a little surprised by how hard I cried on Cameron’s birthday this past Sunday, (and who knows how I will be this coming Friday when we recognize the anniversary of her death). I witness other parents’ grief every day. But this year, Cameron Week has reminded me that I am first and foremost a mom who really misses her daughter.

God bless you Cameron.

Author: Blyth Lord


Posted in Childhood Cancer, Pediatric Cancer, Rare Disease, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bear with Me

bearwithme_edited-1I was a nurse for 29+ years and have loved the opportunities that I had to care for children with cancer during that time.  Knowing the role of a nurse and what an emotional toll childhood cancer takes on children and their families,  people would often ask, “How can you care for these children?” The truth is that I never wanted to do anything else.

WorldwideDuring my time as a nurse, I discovered several truths: (1) Many people are not aware of the large number of children being diagnosed with cancer until they have a child that receives the awful, and surprising  diagnosis. Today, each and everyday, 43 children will be diagnosed with cancer.  (2) Childhood cancer is not as  rare as most people think it is. Worldwide, close to a quarter of a million children will get cancer each year.  Many children are being diagnosed with thyroid, kidney, and brain cancers that were formally known as “adult cancers.

pinkbaseball_edited-1As someone who has been very closely involved with precious children being treated for cancer and watching what their families have to endure, it has angered me that so many companies have items that promote breast cancer awareness and other diseases, but seem to ignore the number one disease killer of children.  I am also angered that baseball teams do pink on Mother’s Day for breast cancer and blue on Father’s Day for variety of men’s cancer conditions but overlook childhood cancer and it’s gold ribbon especially in September.

Awareness is needed for childhood cancer just as it was needed for HIV Aids, and Breast Cancer.  It is the awareness that will eventually lead to the funding that is so desperately needed for pediatric cancer research. If people were fully aware of the plight of children with cancer, I am sure the National Cancer Institute would be spending more than 4% on pediatric cancer.

bearcure_edited-1Many times when a child is diagnosed or in treatment, friends and families don’t know what to do, so they send  or give them stuffed animals, mostly bears.  The child gets attached to his bear and it goes wherever he goes.  It provides comfort. Sarah Chana Radcliffe, M.Ed., C.Psych. Assoc said, “A teddy bear can provide comfort through hard times. When a child suffers a loss or when he or she is feeling BearWhy_edited-1fearful or upset, the inanimate object has the power to soothe and comfort. The animal “looks” as if it understands and cares, which allows a child to feel supported while he or she is all alone.”

Additionally, a bear for childhood cancer awareness would be a bear that could be purchased for children to provide comfort during their treatment or a family could purchase to honor a child that has lost their life to the monster known as childhood cancer. No kid can fight cancer alone and with the recognition that a bear or “special friend” can be so important to children during 2014-04-18 10.48.26 amtheir treatment for cancer, I decided  to do something. In order to improve awareness, and to benefit children with cancer, I started a petition and Facebook page (so far, we have shipped 350 bears to kids). I want to appeal to a company to manufacture a childhood cancer awareness bear. If you have not already done so, please sign our petition by clicking on the  photo to the left.

BearMarket_edited-1If they made an awareness bear, companies that profit from the sale of stuffed animals could do themselves a big favor and also help children with cancer at the same time.  I believe they don’t realize the profit potential in having a childhood cancer bear. Potential manufacturers may only be looking at the annual diagnosis rate. They may not even be aware that there  are over 40,000 children undergoing treatment now and there are 400,000 survivors in the United States alone! Can you imagine how many bears could have been sold if they were available at the time of diagnosis?  If they offered bears in blue, pink, yellow and brown, each with a beautiful gold ribbon, think of how many they could potentially sell?   A lot of kids would want to own all of them. The possibilities are endless!

Author: Lynne Stieflerbounceballauthor


Posted in Uncategorized, Childhood Cancer, Pediatric Cancer | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Legislation: Where do you stand?

Legislation_edited-2Where do you stand? This is an election year for all of our Congressional Representatives. We should be asking them where they stand when it comes to legislation that can have an effect on childhood cancer research and/or on the children affected by this terrible and much underfunded disease.

In order to ask the candidates about their commitment to various bills that affect childhood cancer, we need to do some homework. After we review pending legislation and discuss with other people in the community, we need to determine what our position is, and this is the difficult part,  seek out our candidate’s positions and then support those who best reflect our interests.

Our community has several leadership organizations, associations, and collaborations  that represent individuals and smaller foundations involved in childhood cancer fundraising, research, patient care and advocacy.  Most of them take stands on pending legislation before congress. If you belong to or follow an association, an alliance, collaboration, or any other group, do you know where they stand on various bills and issues? Ask, you may be surprised to find out that they may not feel the same as you. If you generally hear from them from time to time on various requests to help in contacting congress but are not hearing from them on legislation that appeals to you, chances are they do not favor it. You should engage them and ask…

pogoWhere do you stand?

The Gabriella Miller Kids First Act: This is not over. We have one very important step to complete. Here’s a bill that was passed by the US House of Representatives with a bi-partisan vote in December, 2013. It was passed in March, 2014 by the US Senate by unanimous consent and recently signed by President Obama on April 3, 2014.  All that is needed now is to have it appropriated.  In order to complete the last and final phase of action on this bill it will require all of those concerned with children’s health to rally behind it.  Shame on our childhood cancer community and our leaders if we are unable to complete the final phase.  Ask your favorite leadership group,  “Where do you stand on providing support to have this bill appropriated?”  It’s time for us to stand up and be counted.  The government has done everything we have asked 447915420_640on this bill. We can not allow a bill, passed by the House and Senate and signed by the President, to die a slow and quiet death waiting to be appropriated as the original $150 million Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Cancer Bill did in 2009. If we allow the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act to go unappropriated, what kind of signal does that send to our legislators? The only thing in our way now is us and our childhood cancer community’s disunity.

Below are five bills that are still under consideration in congress that, if passed,  I believe would benefit kids with cancer. Check them out by clicking on the name of the bill. It’s fine if you don’t agree with me, but I urge you to find your personal hot buttons and ask your congressional candidates, “Where do you stand?”

HR: 460 Patients’ Access to Treatments Act of 2013 – Amends the Public Health Service Act to establish cost-sharing limits for health plans that cover prescription drugs and use a formulary or other tiered cost-sharing structure.

H.R. 2058 Childhood Cancer Survivors’ Quality of Life Act of 2013 – Amends the Public Health Service Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make grants to eligible entities to establish pilot programs to develop, study, or evaluate model systems for monitoring and caring for childhood cancer survivors. So far, this bill has 27 co-sponsors.

2014-03-15 06.39.13 amH.R. 2090: Patient Choice Act of 2013 – A patient or family facing a life threatening or terminal illness would have the ability to obtain drugs that have already been in phase I and II clinical trials with established safety profiles. You may remember the social media campaign that was waged very recently to get special medicine out of clinical trials for 7 yr.-old Josh Hardy. If this bill had been passed, Josh would have had an opportunity to use that medicine without going to social media.

HR.2607: Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Reauthorization Act – The bill would expand efforts so that all children, adolescents, and young adults diagnosed with cancer may be included in childhood cancer biorepositories for the purpose of creating opportunities for peer-reviewed cancer research.

HR.3116: The MODDERN Cures Act of 2013-(acronym for Modernizing Our Drug & Diagnostics Evaluation and Regulatory Network) Provides for the development of treatments and cures for unmet medical needs – such as autoimmune diseases, neurological conditions, cancer, and rare diseases. Typically, medicines for these kinds of medical needs take longer than average to develop. Legislation like this could help speed the process along and bring treatments to the hands of patients who desperately need them. It gives patent incentives to manufacturers.

NCIdollar_edited-1This is not a bill, it can’t be legislated, but we need to bring congressional and senatorial pressure on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) on the proper allocation of research funds between adult’s and children’s  cancers.   If you believe we should be spending 96% of our cancer research on adults, then do nothing.  If  you believe kid’s should have more than 4%, you need to speak up. It’s just that simple.  Check out this letter template as a place to start.

When it comes to supporting appropriations and legislation that will benefit children fighting cancer, we can be passive  or active. I prefer  to be active, ’cause cancer certainly is not passive. That’s where I stand.  Where do you stand?

Author: Joe Baberbounceballauthor


Posted in Childhood Cancer, Pediatric Cancer, Rare Disease, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

RARE is not a dirty word


Editor’s Note: No one in my childhood cancer community, including me, likes the word “rare” when it used to describe the disease. I met Rob and three others from the childhood cancer community at a three day RDLA event in Washington, DC. One of the speakers I listened to at the conference was a reporter from the Wall Street Journal and she spoke of a really, really rare cancer her mother had. She said only 7,000 people, yes that’s right, only 7,000 people per year were affected by the type of cancer from which her mother eventually died. At that moment, I realized my grandson’s neuroblastoma which affects 600 kids a year was in fact rare. My experience at the conference mirrored Rob’s which he very eloquently describes below. By  the way, at the conference we met Danielle Leach  from Inspire.Com and she suggested the title for this article.    Team Captain

rdd-logoThis was my second consecutive year at the Rare Disease Legislative Advocacy Days and the experience did not disappoint me. RDLA has the same challenges with rare populations as we do with childhood cancer, some of them being FDA reform, low or nonexistent funding and lack of drug development. The atmosphere at RDLA is very comfortable for the childhood cancer advocate. We are welcome  as part of the team and it seems that they recognize that our challenges are much in line with theirs. Statistically, the childhood cancer community fits within the scope of rare disease with the guideline being less than 200,000 diagnoses per year and includes 7000 other diseases. There is a lot that this group does well but there are a few in particular that the childhood cancer community can embrace and aspire to. The 2 things that I wish to highlight from the experience are education and access.

The schedule surrounding the RDLA week was a busy one. At some times choices were offered of topics at different venues to fit your interest. We attended as many as we could and the education that was offered through the sampanel discussions and presentations were unprecedented in my 6 years of advocacy experience. The opening night was a documentary on “progeria” that educated us about this disease that had no treatment. The documentary is a case study of how a single family rallied around this disease and pushed a drug through to market that is actually adding about 5 years to these kids life expectancy through drugs that improve their vascular strength.

After the documentary, the panel discussion opened with introductions, panelists included Dr. Francis Collins, Director, NIH. I am proud to announce that the 5 attendees from the childhood cancer cause in the audience lead the Q & A session with Dr. Collins and no one was holding anything back but we were all respectful at the same time.  I actually had a short conversation with him after the event and he was very receptive to our challenges and assured me that our advocacy efforts are necessary to get the changes we need for our patient population, for our kids.

rdla logoIn conclusion, I can attest that the first year I was a bit star-struck. This year I knew what to expect and was ready to engage. The experience that was led by RDLA is one that all serious advocates should attend to shape their advocacy tools and experience how another well organized cause does things. I encourage everyone to get involved with RDLA and they will open doors for our childhood cancer community.

Author: Rob Whan


Posted in Childhood Cancer, Pediatric Cancer, Rare Disease, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


Why Nascar_edited-1Why is it important for the NASCAR community, teams, drivers, sponsors and tracks to join in to display “Gold in September“, “Childhood Cancer Awareness” month?

NascarPink2_edited-1Because NASCAR is the No. 1 spectator sport and NASCAR races are always among the top sporting events attended in the United States. The races are broadcast in many countries and attract a lot of television viewers! With this kind of reach, a lot of awareness could be raised about childhood cancer! NASCAR teams and track owners receive a lot of corporate sponsorship support and displaying Gold in September, would have the potential, to not only raise public awareness about childhood cancer, but also reach many huge corporations, that might be willing to help fund childhood cancer research? (NASCAR does have at least one sponsor who is helping, Aflac has donated over 87 million dollars to childhood cancer research since 1995).


Aflac and driver Carl Edwards support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month each September

Gold in NASCAR, might get the attention of the NFL and other sports, who have also been reluctant to join in to promote “Childhood Cancer Awareness” month, inspiring them to help! One of the biggest problems, is the general public thinks of childhood cancer, as cute, smiling bald children in St. Jude commercials, that go there and get cured! And while St Jude does an amazing job treating children and doing research, many times, this is not the reality. Most people are unaware, that childhood cancer is CC1in285_edited-1the No. 1 disease killer of children, that childhood cancer research is grossly under funded, that it’s called rare, yet 1 in 285 children in the US will get cancer before age 20 and that there is a huge need for less toxic treatments! Most of the chemo drugs used on children are more than 20 years old and were made for adults. Even if a child survives cancer, many times they suffer life long problems or shortened lives because of the treatment. A lot of the awareness and research funding, is raised by hundreds of childhood cancer organizations, like St Baldricks, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and Cookies for Kids Cancer, shaving heads, selling lemonade and cookies! They do an awesome job, but they need help!

DriverChart2_edited-1We should ask NASCAR teams, drivers, and sponsors to join in and help us raise awareness. Team owners and drivers can  ask their sponsors to give up space for a gold ribbon to be placed on the car or maybe “September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month” on the bumper or something on the hood. Wouldn’t it be great if the car manufacturers (Ford, Toyota, Chevy), stepped up and furnished a gold painted pace car or at least a white car with a big gold ribbon predominately displayed for all races held in September to promote childhood cancer awareness month!  The tracks where September races are held could even promote awareness by using the gold theme.

September 1, 2013 Atlanta 500 Race

September 1, 2013 Atlanta 500 Race

The last few years, Chevy and the American Cancer Society have teamed up, to run a pink pace car (breast cancer awareness) at Atlanta Motor Speedway, around the beginning of September (August 31st this year). The childhood cancer community has no problem with a pink pace car and does support breast cancer awareness month, but just not in September. Gold is for September and Pink is for October!

RaceSchedules_edited-1The NASCAR community has always been one to do tributes for tragedies, like 9/11, the Virginia Tech shooting or raise awareness for different causes, breast cancer and autism! What greater tragedy and cause, than children dying from cancer and very little being done about it? Everyone has the power to make a difference in our world, some use their words, some use their talents and some use their resources. We need Gold in NASCAR 2014!

How can you help? Share this post with all your friends. We have provided information above, click on the Ford Pace Car. Write to your favorite owners, drivers, sponsors, and tracks (see below) and let them know how you feel. Write the American Cancer Society and ask them what their plans are for NASCAR in September. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL SEPTEMBER. START NOW!

Author: Greg Puryear

There are four races in September. You can contact (click on name) each race track and ask them to do something to make people aware that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month: Richmond on 9/6/2014, Chicago 9/14/2014, New Hampshire 9/21/2014 and Dover (see below) on 9/28/2014


Posted in Childhood Cancer, Pediatric Cancer, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mad as Hell…maybe

Mad_edited-1I certainly don’t want to scare you, the blog reader, away– but when provoked Untitled-1by someone or something like the American Cancer Society (ACS), I become one of these ladies. Why would I paint myself in this light, on “the internet?” For better or worse, it is very necessary for proper context…

Just think red hair, green eyes (when not inferno red), and a face full of freckles—then you’ve got yours truly.

Let’s go back to 2008: As my mom was going through the torturous process of wig shopping while waiting to start chemo , we kept hearing about how the ACS has a wig voucher program, and that we should check it out. The call between the ACS and my very sick mom with inoperable cancer was going on and on; I actually left the room to grab a snack. In the end, to approve her for the voucher, they (ACS) wanted her (my mom) to send financial records showing the amount of funds in a money market account, consisting of life insurance money from when my dad passed away. I couldn’t believe it, probing of detailed financials for a stinkin’ wig voucher! I couldn’t make this crap up. I was livid, I was disgusted. I told her “no way, you are not to call them or give them anything, we are buying your wig.”

ACS was officially dead to me from that point forward. I wrote my mom’s obituary, designating any memorial funds to St. Jude—not the ACS. I have told many people to not give money to the ACS, this is all predating my joining the childhood cancer community. My school district in quasi-rural Pennsylvania breaks records in the Relay for Life, this will make some of you cringe, but they raised over $100,000 last year alone, but rest assured that not a single penny has come from me!

Fast forward to December 2013: I learned about the ACS decision to pull funding for the nationwide summer camp program, including Camp Can Do in my own backyard. ACS, it is as though you rose from the dead; but you would have been better off playing dead, as I was livid, disgusted once again and this time it is worse—you are messing with the kids. And you are making me think about that wig voucher debacle of 2008, thanks for those memories.

March 2014: I have an audience now, so I did a little venting about my arch nemesis the ACS and posted “C is for Cancer Camp,” even jabbing with a little Beyonce. I was working on finding information about the other cancer camps. In my googling, I came across information on the ACS web-sites, still touting the camps as a reason to donate!   I was livid and so tracked down the Four Square Team Captain Joe Baber, knowing he has some “buddies” at the ACS now. Basically, it was a “who the [bleep] do I contact about this [bleep]?” kind of situation. I got a name, sent an e-mail, and I not only got a prompt reply but also a request for a call for later in the week!?

BlackboardwearHow productive, right? But oh, how ironic, someone from the ACS wants to chat with the scorned Daughter-cologist turned childhood cancer advocate. While I know the whole “sugar goes further than vinegar” mantra, how will I bite my scorpion tongue? I had a few days to prep thyself, so I spent the time doing one thing and one thing only: telling myself to play it cool for the kids, to not lash out no matter what, that sugar goes further than vinegar, sugar goes further than vinegars, sugar goes further than vinegar…

This ACS contact was Rebecca Kirch, Director, Quality of Life and Survivorship, Cancer Control. I actually had no idea what to expect from the call. I certainly was not expecting to be on the call for nearly 2 hours, like we were. We both like to talk—but she did some listening too and was taking notes, as was I. We started off by talking about the camps, then a whole host of other issues. We talked about her strategic plan for pediatric cancer and some specific initiatives she is working on for childhood cancer. We talked about the low number of grant requests that the ACS receives for pediatric cancer research. We talked about her passion for palliative care and I mentioned my passion for research into immunotherapies for childhood cancer. We talked about how disliked the ACS is by the childhood cancer community, and the firestorm that exploded on Facebook because of the gold ribbon used on the  Childhood Cancer report. I talked about my struggles joining the childhood cancer community, as someone who has not personally dealt with childhood cancer. We got into some personal things. About how I lost my mom from a 9-month battle with a rare cancer and how I have 2 young daughters, “who are healthy and hopefully will stay that way”. Rebecca talked about losing her brother from a 9-month battle with lung cancer and how she has 2 sons “who are healthy and hopefully will stay that way”. It was quickly apparent that this is someone that I could relate to on at least some levels and, maybe just maybe, get along with. Each of us used the word “like-minded” several times, and she commented how people like us wind up finding each other. Pinch, pinch–was this really happening? I thought to myself: she seems so passionate about helping the kids, but she is still ACS—that’s too bad. But look at me, who am I to judge? I have made my living, and still do, as a consultant for the pharmaceutical industry. Rebecca is ACS and I am Pharma; however, despite being part of the “evil empire”, we are both very passionate about helping kids with cancer, that is without question despite what are sure to be stark differences between us. Nonetheless, we both see that there are opportunities to make a difference, if we find ways to work in tandem. It is clear to me that there will need to be some agreeing to disagree. In the spirit of doing just that, I would like to dedicate this part of the song “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz to the childhood cancer community along with to Rebecca Kirch at the ACS—not the entire ACS just yet, just going to start with Rebecca and move out from there:

‘Cause even the stars they burn
Some even fall to the earth
We’ve got a lot to learn
God knows we’re worth it
No, I won’t give up
I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got, yeah, we got a lot at stake
And in the end, you’re still my friend at least we did intend
For us to work we didn’t break, we didn’t burn
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I’ve got, and what I’m not, and who I am

I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you [the kids!!] all my love [and hard work!!]
I’m still looking up, still looking up.

This is the “Grandma shrine”—photos, cabinet, and knick knacks included. This is our “touch with permission only” area of the house

I would finally like to share this picture with anyone who made it to the end. My younger daughter Ella will never meet grandma, as she was born about 17 months after grandma had passed. But she knows grandma per this shrine in our foyer, and was so very excited to give grandma her lily that she made at school the day before my anticipated ACS call. This is and was a special personal moment, but I think my mom and Ella would be OK with me sharing it here to communicate how badly I want peace coupled with productive dialogue. Please, everyone, let’s start moving immediately toward peaceful communication, so that we can all be more productive for the kids. I am still no ACS fan and am in no way defending the past and present, but having the ACS be either dead to you (like they were to me) or a prime target for pure anger (even when justified—trust me, I do get it) will never help one darn bit toward a better FUTURE. I have not lost a child to cancer and appreciate that there is pain out there that is far deeper than mine, but I trust that we as a community can work this whole mess out.

Author: Laurie O.

Related Articles:

CookieCamp_edited-1C is for Cancer Camp


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Dear Caleb




For my friends who may find themselves on a similar journey:

CalebFrame_edited-1Reflecting on Caleb’s short life:

This is the most difficult thing that I do. It has been so long now. Memories are not as fresh and the emotion is sometimes just numbing. Grief is physical and there are natural hormonal defenses that protect us. This comes and goes. Sometimes we are in better shape than others. It is just like an athlete’s life where conditioning is everything. We all have our debilitating moments when our defenses are down; like mine today.

Is it sad that I sit here reflecting Caleb’s life and all I can speak about is grief? I think not. Everyone suffers from grief, just different levels of it. I have had people sympathize with me about grief. Believe me, it is awkward when someone says they lost their grandmother to cancer so they understand. I don’t get angry. This is just their way of trying to relate to my grief. The loss of their loved one may be the most extreme grief that they have ever experienced. I know what they are trying to say is, “I’m sorry for your loss. I wish I could ease your pain.”

Caleb taught me more in four short years than I can ever sum up in anything I write or articulate here. Besides humility, grace, family, love, and affection he taught me what is really important in life, Time. We only have a fixed amount of time here and we need to capitalize on making the world a better place rather than getting bogged down with the distractions of daily drama.

What I have learned?

This experience has caused me to see things a little bit different and in that, I see things that may help others. The first thing is that although there are intimidating circumstances that we face. I like to think that through my experience and loss I am an authority on what the loss of a child does to people. I have been there and witnessed many that I love dearly come unglued and all I can do is watch like a fatal roadside accident. If I can add a glimmer of hope to those people, I want them to know that there is no one that has “your experience,” you are the expert in your walk. This should empower you to trust your heart and make a difference. Knowing this, I think of my time and its value. We should overlook the fears and own the situation (there is no way around it, so embrace it). No one else’s time is more valuable than yours. We deserve a seat at the table of whomever we choose that may be relevant to our mission. If you were across the table from Bill Gates or President Obama, don’t you think that they may be able to learn just a little something about humanity from you? I do. Our experiences are humbling and if you are in front of people they will listen.

What do I have to offer other people?

I am now in a unique position that I see as a benefit, but it could also be a hindrance. I am guilty of adding to a dilemma. When Caleb passed, my wife and I had no clue what to do. We thought it was a good idea to start a legacy foundation to honor our son and help other families. I wish we had never done this. I wish there was a go-to organization, one that is all inclusive, rather than a member organization or a part time venture. If there had been such an organization leader when Caleb passed away, I would have subscribed to that entity to educate and guide me. I could find no such organization and instead, I was forced to figure it out and take on the world myself. Today, parents may be considering doing the same thing we did with a legacy foundation. I am here to say to them, wait a minute, take a breath, slow down. You may not need to do that. There are foundations just like mine that need other parents to get involved. Like us, many organizations need other parents’ help. Many organizations offer you an opportunity to shape their programs with your knowledge and blend it with what is important to them. We have legacy projects for other families within our own foundation and I challenge other organizations to offer the same kind of value. We are ahead of the curve with our experience and I hate to see future families have to struggle for years to figure out what we already know. In Caleb’s honor, I welcome them to join the fight in memory of their own child and stand with us.

What benefits can this community share with all the other legacy foundations? Simply put, strength. If we collaborate and consolidate our resources, we can overcome anything. Keep in mind the urgency of the situation. Children are dying everyday. People cry when they see malnourished babies in Africa and beaten dogs in cages? There is no reason why we can’t get the same attention and the pull of heartstrings like they do?

CalebWhanShelf_edited-1 Author: Rob Whan

Checkout the new website  http://www.calebscrusade.org/


Posted in Childhood Cancer, Pediatric Cancer, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

C is for Cancer Camp

Laurie’s mom and newborn daughter, October 2007 – say cheese!

Laurie’s mom and newborn daughter, October 2007 – say cheese!

“I’m not sure if it is possible, but if I can send you a “signal” after I go, then I promise that I will.” by Laurie’s mom, August 6 2009, 2 days before her untimely passing from a rare and aggressive uterine cancer/sarcoma with features normally seen only in pediatric sarcomas; her bone marrow was packed with cancer cells, but her mind was free and clear.

I’m going to get right to it, for once.  Did you know that the American Cancer Society had been supporting a nationwide summer childhood cancer camp program, consisting of about 25 camps, for decades?  Did you know that they are no longer funding these camps for 2014 or beyond, as announced in 2013?  They say that the reason was to redirect all funding to research, but I have not seen the words “pediatric” or “childhood” specified.  Regardless, do you think it is appropriate and rationale to say this?: Hey kids with cancer and your brothers and sisters, no more camps for you until we find cures for all things cancer, so you are just going to have to wait and sit home while healthy kids enjoy camp candologoon your behalf.  One of these said camps is in my area.  Appropriately named Camp Can Do,  it is attended by children from a wide area in eastern/central Pennsylvania: from Philadelphia to Lehigh Valley to Hershey and now they are fighting for their lives.

Let me just say this, I am very, very disappointed that the American Cancer Society has decided that these camps can no longer be funded. What they may not realize is the camp program was the one area the ACS shined in showing they had compassion for kids with cancer. I assume the children will see a huge increase in the amount of research the American Cancer Society devotes to childhood cancers.  Well…

Let’s get on with survivin’. Here’s the poignant words of Miss Beyoncé and her gals from Destiny Child, with some slight adaptations:

You know I’m not gon diss the ACS on the internet
Cause my mama taught me better than that
survivorI’m a survivor (What?)
I’m not gon give up (What?)
I’m not gon stop (What?)
I’m gon work harder (What?)
Can Do’s Director is a survivor (What?)
Can Do’s gonna make it (What?)
Can Do will survive (What?)
Keep on survivin’

So how did I wind up finding out about this camp problem, considering that I have had no direct personal experience with childhood cancer?  Well, it is a funny little ironic story.  I came into this community because of one reason—I wanted to do my part to raise money to support RESEARCH funding, knowing all too well that treatment advances for the kids are lagging behind those from adults.  Simple mantra:  Kids First in all ways, cancer research no exception–PERIOD!  I appreciate the importance of CARE-focused organizations, but my mission pertained to better research.  But my well-intentioned efforts to start a new, fun local fundraiser have been in slow motion, for no lack of effort on my part.  Just lots of totally unnecessary barriers, which I won’t go into here (see song lyrics above, for the time being).

Anyhow, during the holiday period of November-December 2013, I was in deep meditative-type thought about what my path should be moving forward, to maximize my contribution to the childhood cancer community.  I hardly talked about it at all, to anyone, was just thinking, thinking, and thinking to myself.  And in my head, I had a very short conversation with my mom, granted it was one-sided but here is what I said, “Ma, if you can see things clearer than me and can send me that “signal” that you promised, please point me in the right direction as I cannot see the forest through the trees right now.”

A few days later I went Christmas shopping at a local craft show near my house, something I have never done even though it is a long-running annual event.  There, I windup chatting with a former pediatric cancer nurse who was volunteering at the event, whom I met very briefly in September 2013.  She remembered me and knew that I was interested in raising funds for childhood cancer research, per our prior interaction, but hesitantly says something along the lines of this: I am not trying to sway you from your mission as ICamp Can Do group  know you are interested in raising research funding, but did you hear about the summer camp program that lost its funding from the American Cancer Society just last year?

“Uh No”, I responded, but I wanted to know more as this is the first I was hearing about it. She passed along the names of some local camps that were affected by this “business decision” (again, go back and read song lyrics above).  I did not go home and look up the camps right away, as I was still pondering the research funding problems/solutions and was being swallowed up by the craziness of the holiday season.  But when the holiday had passed, I sat down at my computer and found the article that I linked earlier (http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/MP/20130504/NEWS/130509647).  Here’s how it started, in case the link isn’t working for ya:

“Camp Can Do specializes in giving kids with cancer a chance at the summer camp experience, and a growing number of people are using their can-do attitudes to save it. For former camper Tom Prader, raising money for another summer of Camp Can Do means saving a camp that saved his life. He started at camp in 1984, right after his second relapse, and he was not excited about going. “I was angry and I thought that I was by myself,” Prader said. But during his week away, he changed for the better. Prader said his mother still talks about how he changed during that week at camp. During his 12 years of treatment, he said, it was people connected to Camp Can Do that supported him. Because of his experience as a camper, he knows what camp means to kids who attend. “I couldn’t live with myself if that opportunity, if that need, wasn’t filled for other kids,” he said.”

Once I read up to this part, there was no need per se to read any further.  I was so IN, knowing instantly that I had finally received my long-awaited SIGNAL (!!) that I so desperately needed more than ever; and if my mom really had nothing to do with this, we will just pretend like she did.

Keep in mind that the folks leading this effort to save the camp, who have been breaking their backs to secure enough funding over the past year so that the camp can take place in 2014 and beyond, are childhood cancer survivors.  It angers me that they are left to pick up the pieces—they have been through enough in their lives and should not have been thrown into this situation—and the least I can do is help them.  So I have something unique and fun up my sleeve, and I’ll be sharing more in a later post…

I still plan to get back into the research funding focus, once the camp gets squared away.  For right now, however, my priority is Camp Can Do.  I Can Do something.

My understanding is that up to 25 camps were affected, and I do not know the fate of the rest of them.  If you have information to share, please contact me directly.

CanDoSave_edited-1I started with a quote and am going to end with one.  But these are my words, written words to Tom Prader—the same Tom Prader who is a childhood cancer survivor who is fighting to save Camp Can Do:

“If you think like a Muppet, good things come. :)  The Muppets would never let camp die!”

This gal is on quite the Muppet-like mission, so gotta run but more later…

Author: Laurie O.

Editor’s Note:  Want to help Camp Can DO?

While it costs about $1,000 to sponsor a single camper, the camp experience is free of charge to the families of children with cancer or survivors or siblings.

Daniel Boone Optimist Club (Based in PA), a member of Optimist International, has been working since January 2014 to raise funding for Camp Can Do 2014 and beyond.

The Daniel Boone Optimists have pledged a $5,000 donation from their club (and this donation is being matched, for a contribution totaling at least $10,000). They are accepting individual donations of ANY amount from anyone who would like to help. The total operating costs for the 3-week camp, which is an all-volunteer effort and includes a mix of children in active treatment, children in remission (or otherwise in a break of treatment), and siblings, is in the range of $160,000-180,000.

100% of your donation will be directed to Camp Can Do. Optimist International Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit entity, making your donation eligible for tax-deductibility.

Checks need to be made payable to “Optimist International Foundation”
IMPORTANT: the memo line must state “Childhood Cancer Support”, to ensure that 100% of your donation is directed to Camp Can Do
Mail checks to : Optimist International Foundation c/o Daniel Boone Optimist Club PO Box 98, Douglassville PA 19518
Any questions whatsoever can be directed to Laurie Orloski, who is a blogger here, a member of Daniel Boone Optimist Club, and can be reached at laurie.orloski@gmail.com or by phone at 610.385.1689

Click here for a copy the the latest  brochure>>  CanDoBrochureASide1


Posted in Childhood Cancer, Pediatric Cancer, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Page A29

PageA29_edited-1Dear Editor

I would like to direct you to Page A29 of your Sunday, March 9, 2014 edition. This page is the obituary page. This morning my wife shared with me that there was a nice obituary for a friend’s son, who they just lost to cancer. When she finally KOMEN_Maniafinished thrashing though the paper to get all the coupons out, she tossed it on my lap to take a look. When I glanced down, the front page was staring back at me with a sea of pink for our local Susan G. Komen, Race for the Cure.

As I looked eagerly though the News-Press I couldn’t help but notice the amount of press and exposure that the Race for the Cure had in our community.  With pictures of participants, the entire front page and multiple pages thereafter  that were larger than life. The front section of the paper could have been a supplementary insert from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. I applaud the community in standing together for a united cause and honoring all the survivors that graced the pictures that I speak of. Then I stop while my eyes well up and wonder why? I wonder why our community does not give the same support to other similar causes. I know what happened Saturday morning and the money raised is phenomenal and very much newsworthy material. But, it still brings me back to the fact that this little boy, struggled for 2 years with Leukemia and a very small percentage of your readers know about. I would like to share with you what was hidden on Page A29:

 2014-03-10 08.17.30 amIn Loving Memory of 

Chase Noah Johnson

 September 29, 2005 ~ March 2, 2014

Chase Noah Johnson, 8 years old, earned his angel wings on Sunday, March 2, 2014. Chase battled leukemia for two long years with unbelievable bravery. Through all of his struggles you would be hard pressed to find him without a smile on his face and his dimples glowing. He would look for the good in a hard situation and always reminded us to do the same. He loved unconditionally with his whole heart and didn’t expect anything in return. Chase was kind and considerate and spoke from his heart with the utmost sincerity. He loved to laugh, watch funny movies, play video games, and enjoyed time spent with family and friends.

 We have been humbled and blessed by the life lessons that Chase has taught us. He has inspired our family and hundreds of people alike to live for each day. At 8 years old he had the courage, strength, and appreciation for life we can only hope to achieve in our adult lives.

 Chase is survived by his father Chris, mother Lisa, sisters Cayli (6) and Chloe (12), grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, and many cousins.

 A Celebration of Life service will be held on Sunday March 9, 2014 at First Christian Church, 2061 McGregor Boulevard starting at 2:00 pm.

 We ask that in lieu of flowers you make a donation to www.GraceforChase.com and we will donate proceeds to childhood cancer research and the various organizations that have helped us along this journey.

- See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/news-press/obituary.aspx?n=chase-johnson&pid=170039087#sthash.pLuFPPmK.dpuf

I do acknowledge that there were a number of stories run about Chase and I do not intend to sound ungrateful for that. This is simply an observation of today’s paper. You see? I am a staunch advocate for childhood cancer. And when I say staunch advocate I mean it. I can back it up with multiple trips a year to Washington DC to actively advocate for our kids.  Some use this term to define that they support a cause, but in this context I eat, sleep and breathe it. This rarely gets covered and some friends say it’s “newsworthy.” I stand here with Lisa Snyder, Chris Johnson, their 2 daughters, family members and everyone else who had the amazing opportunity to meet a superhero sidekick like Chase. I know how influential Chase’s life is and the legacy that the people around him will fulfill.

 If anyone is interested in hearing more about how we can build a legacy for local kids with cancer and build a better future for our families that are yet to be diagnosed I invite you all to reach out. I know first hand of what families like Chase’s have endured and the journey that they are now embarking. Please for Grace for Chase, make a difference and get involved.

 Yours in Grief,

Rob Whan

Forever ^Caleb’s^ Dad

Four Square Editor’s Note: Rob Whan lost his son Caleb 11 days after his 4th birthday to a rare form of Leukemia and has been a passionate, highly active and visible childhood cancer advocate ever since. He and his wife formed a foundation in honor of Caleb that assists families who have been affected by childhood cancer. 


Posted in Childhood Cancer, Pediatric Cancer, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments


CompassionIt was 6 o’clock in the morning and I awoke to the all-too-familiar sound of his cough.  What would be revealed that day changed and shaped the aspirations of my whole family.  We took my congested 16-month-old brother to our family physician, hoping to leave with a prescription to relieve him of his discomfort, but were instead given paperwork for admittance to Rady Children’s Hospital.  The x-rays showed a mass in Conor’s chest.  At the age of nine, I could not fully appreciate what this meant.  What my mother and step-father learned that dark day, and the significance of which I was not able to grasp for years to come, was the grave news that my baby brother had neuroblastoma.  The tumor was lodged precariously along the length of his spinal cord and nearly encircled Conor’s heart.

Conor and me before getting ready for Halloween

Conor and me  getting ready for Halloween

It wasn’t until several years later that I began to fully comprehend the profound stress my family experienced through this ordeal.  I can still picture my weak brother curled up against the cold metal rods of his hospital crib, staring up at me as he clenched the silky blanket I gave him when he was born.  Even though he was facing potentially fatal complications, my brother’s innocent laughter and smile lifted our spirits and gave us all hope in the face of a seemingly hopeless situation. He received chemotherapy over a course of twelve months, in adult doses that are usually lethal to a baby.  My brother’s ordeal motivated me to want to help children like him.

Conor loved to pull my hair!

Conor loved to pull my hair!

I often questioned what good there could be in a world where an innocent, joy-filled baby could get cancer.  Over time, and through the accelerated maturation process I experienced as a result of this crisis, I was able to find my passion at a younger age than most.  I knew from age nine that I would work in some capacity in science or medicine, focusing my efforts on pediatric diseases.

Over the past eight years, I’ve experienced a myriad of reactions from my peers, as well as adults, when asked the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Often, the response of “pediatric oncologist” garners a polite smile, masking an underlying suspicion that this answer will likely change 15 times before I check into my dorm room freshman year.  Until the summer before my senior year of high school, unless the source of inquiry was intimately familiar with my background, his or her reaction would be reasonable.

This past summer however, I began an internship with the Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute, in a lab that conducts research on medulloblastoma, the most common malignant pediatric brain tumor.  During the summer, I volunteered 30 hours a week and continue working there today.  I can only hope that the hours spent learning molecular and cellular biology techniques will contribute in some way to more personalized therapies for children afflicted with these tumors.  I have been fortunate enough to be trained in the phototechniques used by my mentor, a third-year doctoral student.  This experience has only served to fuel my passion to work in this field.

I am thrilled to be actively involved in the scientific field and to be taking these first steps to achieve my goal. Today, Conor is a robust, active nine-year-old with no memory of his fragile first years of life and happily ignorant of the role he played in helping me find my passion.

Author: Grace Furnari


Posted in Childhood Cancer, Pediatric Cancer, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thank You, American Cancer Society

ACSThankYouIn the past, I have been a huge critic of the American Cancer Society and in September, I wrote a very inflamed blog  about all that I felt was  wrong with the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) involvement with childhood cancer.  I believe in telling it like it is and speaking up for the children who have little or no voice when it comes to cancer. I have never spared any words with NIH, NCI, FDA, ACS, government and others. Fortunately, there are plenty of others in this community that also believe in speaking up for the kids. When it comes to childhood cancer, you don’t have to ask how our members feel, they’ll tell you in a heartbeat.

I had a huge response on that September blog. “Give’m hell, Joe!,” was the theme of many emails and phone calls I received shortly after my furious blog was published. I was very angry when I wrote it. I felt empowered by the response from my fellow childhood cancer advocates’ gladiators-and-lion-1927comments.  Shortly afterwards,  I attended a conference in Washington, DC on childhood cancer. Right there, in the middle of a huge room in the Capitol Building, filled with other people who were childhood cancer fighters,  I saw a young man named David. On closer inspection, I noticed he was wearing an American Cancer Society (ACSCAN) name tag and I immediately wondered why they would let him in the same room with all my fellow childhood cancer fighters. David was like a young Roman gladiator surrounded by lions. I gave David my card and a “too hot to handle” piece of my very inflamed childhood cancer fighting mind.  I don’t know how David felt and I didn’t much care, but it sure  felt good to get it off my chest.

A few days later, I left D.C. and returned to my quiet little home. It’s great place and  when it is quiet and comfortable enough, I begin to do deep thinking.  Sometimes, I fall  asleep doing so much heavy thinking.  I guess for me, at my advanced age, it works that way because when I get busy, I don’t take the time to think too deeply.  It’s distracting and I lose sight of my immediate objectives. You could say that I function on instinct, not deep thinking, most of the time.

12136817_sI thought about my encounter with David and wondered how much I may have advanced the concerns of childhood cancer with the American Cancer Society by acting on my instincts. Back in my old business setting,  a huge three story indoor cubicle farm with lots of meeting rooms, that type of behavior would have gotten me exactly nowhere.   Rule number one: Recognize the true root of your anger. For me, I was really angry at cancer and what it has done to so many families including my own. I doubt that David or the ACS would want to hurt my family or any others. Rule number two: Determine the best way to funnel your anger to get the needed result. I was mad as hell at cancer and I wanted it wiped away from earth. I can’t do it by myself sitting at a keyboard blogging about it. Rule number three: Take action.

David, gave my information to others within the ACS. This time, I tried a different approach, one that had worked for me in my business career before I retired and got involved with childhood cancer.  I sat down and had meaningful dialogs with those who could affect change. Sarah with ACS contacted me and we began a conversation.  Later, I was contacted by Rebecca Kirch, Director of Quality of Life & Survivorship for the ACS.  She was very receptive and sincere.  We met on several occasions and we agreed that the fight against childhood cancer would be much more effective if we worked together.  We shared a common goal.  There have been plenty of missteps from all sides along the way.  I had the opportunity to discuss everything that was important to our community. We shared our visions of what was needed to move forward in partnership.  We agreed it would not be easy.  Like the business I came from, the American Cancer Society is a large ship and just can’t turn on a dime. It will take time. On the other hand, look at our childhood cancer community. It’s no easy task getting all our sail boats lined up and headed in the right direction. If we are going to help children by helping each other, it will take time. Yes, I realize how urgent it is. Children are dying from cancer. We can’t afford delay, so let’s get started on forging better relationships as quickly as possible.

One, just one of the many, many problem areas we discussed was the data we had used to compare progress.  I think members of the community would all agree, we should not ACSFactsbe comparing our progress on kids’ cancer in increments of multiple decades.  We need more current data, or a “report card” that will measure our progress or lack of progress by site (type).  Few other organizations, except possibly St. Jude’s, can excel in gathering data like the American Cancer Society.  After months of work, the ACS produced a great report that would give us much better information. This time, it was all together in one, easy to understand, report. We do not have to search through pages and pages of data to find the information we are seeking. By the way, since the report deals with childhood and adolescent cancer, I am really glad to see they included a big gold ribbon on their Facebook post as requested.

Will this report alone change the landscape of the community’s relationship with the ACS? No, but it is a good place to start. I applaud their positive steps in creating a clear and comprehensive report specifically for childhood cancer.  The report will be very helpful to all the major organizations, ACS included, that have the ability to make a huge impact. I hope everyone can appreciate the value of the ACS report and all the work that went into it.

If we lash out at the ACS or others and continue to beat them up when they do something good and constructive, we will never form the relationships we need to beat cancer.  We can take a lesson from our own kids and like them, find ways we can “play” (work) together. We need to work together.  The battle against childhood cancer can benefit by having an organization like the ACS functioning in full partnership with the community.  We can’t get partners to the table if they are greeted with sticks and stones.  It’s easier to effect change inside a partnership than from the outside.

When someone helps the cause by doing something positive, just a small “thank you” can go a long, long way.  We need to beat cancer, not each other.

Author: Joe Baber


Posted in Childhood Cancer, Pediatric Cancer, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Survivor 2nd Edition

Survivor2In our first edition of Survivor, we followed a typical group of 36 kids that were diagnosed on one day with childhood cancer. We used 36 kids because in the United States, on average 36 are diagnosed each day of the year.  We “followed” them for 30 years.  Along the way, some died, Tensurvivebut about 80% survived and some of which would later die in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s because of something called a late-term side effect.   There are slightly more than 400,000 childhood survivors alive in the United States today.  Imagine 400,000 survivors of childhood cancer!  In the fifties and sixties, the cure rate for just about any type of cancer in children was so terribly low that no one would have ever believed we could have that many survivors over the next fifty years.  Isn’t that great progress?  Unfortunately, the answer is a hesitant,  “Yes.”  Hesitant because, while it’s great to have so many people beat childhood cancer, it also brings a lot of questions as to how are we going to take care of nearly half a million people who we now know are virtual ticking time bombs when it comes to future catastrophic health issues.  Yes, catastrophic health issues because the same treatment they received that saved them from cancer may suddenly end or alter their lives due to the long-term effect of the chemicals and radiation their bodies absorbed as annals-of-internal-medicine-coverFan_edited-1children.

A new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that many primary care doctors feel they’re not prepared to deal with adult survivors of childhood cancer. Most doctors said they felt a little uncomfortable caring for childhood cancer survivors. Most in the study said they preferred to care for childhood cancer survivors in tandem with a doctor at a cancer center.  Special thanks needs to be given to the American Cancer Society (ACS).  The ACS saw problems with childhood cancer survivors obtaining proper treatment later in life and  published a CAjournalspecial report in “CA” a journal for clinicians. Using  the ACS report, Childhood and Adolescent Cancer Statistics 2014,   and other sources this 2nd Edition of Survivor will focus on a discussion of the long-term side effects that childhood cancer survivors will have to overcome with the help of their primary care physicians.  It seems when you survive childhood cancer it’s not the end, it’s the beginning  of surviving all over again.

Cured?Nothing is certain when it comes to late effects, but children who get chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy also have a small, but definitely increased, risk of second cancers later in life. These cancers include bone cancer, leukemia, or other soft tissue tumors. The bone cancers seem to be linked with radiation therapy, while the leukemias are more often seen after treatment with cyclophosphamide and related drugs.  Late term effects are discussed below by cancer type. This information was provided in the ACS report, but more detailed information for a particular type of cancer can be found on the American Cancer Society website.

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)**: Long-term adverse health effects among children treated for ALL include neurocognitive defects, growth deficiency, and an increased risk of second cancers such as AML or lymphoma. Early forms of Central Nervous System (CNS) prophylaxis (treatment) that combined high doses of radiation and intrathecal chemotherapy resulted in a high risk of neurocognitive defects; less-toxic therapies that avoid the use of radiation have reduced, but not eliminated, these risks. In addition, children treated with cranial radiation therapy (CRT) for ALL in the past had an increased risk of developing CNS and head and neck tumors. High-dose therapeutic radiation is a recognized cause of brain tumors. Children who receive cranial irradiation for ALL or other cancers have an excess risk of brain and CNS tumors. Radiation therapy is now used in only a small fraction of patients with ALL who are at high risk of CNS recurrence. Patients with ALL who are treated with anthracyclines are at risk for late cardiac effects. 

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)**: Treatment toxicity and long-term effects for patients with AML are similar to those for patients with ALL; however, AML less often requires treatment or prophylaxis of the CNS, and therefore side effects related to radiation of the brain are not as common. Improvements in survival for patients with AML are associated with the use of higher doses of anthracycline chemotherapy than were used in the past.  A follow-up study of 5-year survivors of AML treated from 1970 through 1986 found a relatively low prevalence of cardiac disease; however, there is concern that the prevalence of anthracycline-related cardiac toxicity may increase in more contemporary patient cohorts treated with higher doses.

Hodgkin Lymphoma**: Depending on the treatment received, long-term and late effects of treatment can include pulmonary dysfunction, cardiac disease, thyroid abnormalities, infertility, and second malignant neoplasms. Girls aged 10 years and older and young women treated with radiation to the chest for HL have a high relative and absolute risk of breast cancer.  One study estimated a cumulative risk of breast cancer of 10% by age 45 years for women treated with chest irradiation (greater than 40 grays [Gy]) for HL at age 15 years.  Current guidelines recommend annual MRI as an adjunct to mammographic screening for women who were treated for HL.

Non Hodgkins Lymphoma**: Depending on the chemo drugs used, fertility (the ability to have children) can be affected. Nerve damage, causing numbness, tingling, or even pain in the hands and feet, can also occur. In rare cases, people may develop leukemia several years later.

Brain Tumors (Ependymoma, Astrocytoma, Medulloblastomia)**: Survival rates 32e39_20120907_052634_ssjm0909growtumor90_300vary depending on tumor type, location, and grade. While there has been progress in survival for Central Nervous System (CNS) tumors overall, there has been little progress for some subtypes, such as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), for which the median survival time after diagnosis remains less than one year. Improvements in survival for many types of CNS malignancies have resulted from advances in neurosurgical techniques, delivery of radiation therapy, supportive care, and use of combination chemotherapy.  Nevertheless, children treated for brain tumors have a high risk of long-term morbidity and mortality. Late neurologic complications observed in follow-up studies of 5-year survivors include new onset of seizures, weakness in the arms and legs, blindness, and hearing loss.  Children who receive radiation therapy to the hypothalamic-pituitary axis often experience neuroendocrine effects, including growth hormone deficiency, hypothyroidism, and abnormal timing of menarche.  Cranial radiation therapy, particularly when used in very young children, can also result in neurocognitive deficits. For this reason, treatment protocols for patients with CNS tumors have been modified so that children aged younger than 3 years usually receive chemotherapy first with delayed and/or reduced radiation. Radiation treatment is associated with an increased risk of subsequent neoplasms in survivors of CNS malignancies, including gliomas and meningiomas.  Radiation is not always needed for low-grade tumors.

Neuroblastoma**: – Children who are treated for high-risk disease have the greatest risk of treatment-related complications, including severe sensorineural hearing loss, infertility, cardiac toxicity, and second neoplasms related to high-dose chemotherapy.  Overall survival rates for children with neuroblastoma have increased from 54% between 1975 and 1979 to 79% between 2003 and 2009

Wilms Tumor**: Late effects observed among survivors of WT include kyphosis and scoliosis from radiation to the spine, anthracycline-related cardiotoxicity, end-stage renal failure, an increased risk of second malignancies, and infertility and pregnancy complications among girls treated with radiation.  The risk of end-stage renal failure is increased among patients treated for bilateral disease  and those receiving radiation to the opposite kidney in unilateral disease, as well as those with congenital syndromes and anomalies associated with the WT1 gene region.

Retinoblastoma**: Late effects of retinoblastoma include visual impairment and an increased risk of secondary neoplasms, including bone and soft tissue sarcomas and melanoma.

Osteosarcoma**: Therapy-related late effects can include anthracycline-induced cardiomyopathy, cisplatin-related hearing loss, kidney dysfunction, second malignancies, and infertility, especially in patients receiving alkylating agents. Patients treated for OS may have physical limitations resulting from surgical resection.

Ewing Sarcoma**: ES survivors are at increased risk of developing second cancers, cardiac and pulmonary conditions, infertility, and musculoskeletal problems.

Rhabdomyosarcoma**: Late effects of treatment for RMS vary depending on whether radiation therapy was given and the specific chemotherapy agents received, which have differed over time. Bones and soft tissues that get radiation do not grow very well. Depending on the area getting radiation, it may cause problems such as curvature of the spine, a shortened arm or leg, limited motion of a joint, hardening of the surrounding soft tissue, stiffening of the lungs, poor development of the facial bones, cataracts and poor vision of the involved eye, later problems with sexual function, and other problems. Young children’s brains are especially sensitive to radiation to the head, which can lead to learning problems or other issues, so doctors do their best to avoid this when possible. Second cancers are possible but only affect a small number of RMS survivors, and these are children who most likely would not have survived without these treatments.  Treatments for patients with intermediate-risk and high-risk disease continue to be studied in clinical trials in the hopes of achieving better outcomes.

Ovarian Germ Cell Tumors**: The chemotherapy regimens most commonly used for OGC tumors may cause hearing loss and kidney toxicity.

Testicular Germ Cell Tumors**: Survival rates for testicular cancer have improved substantially since the mid-1970s (from 74% to 96% in 2003-2009), and most patients have a good prognosis.

10881919_sThe most important action a childhood cancer survivor can take is to become totally engaged in their own healthcare. They should have a complete and detailed treatment summary or journal of all procedures (radiation, chemotherapy, drugs, etc.) completed during the time they were in cancer treatment.  This is something that your cancer care facility should provide for you. The completed journal will be invaluable five, ten, fifteen, or more years down the road. Every primary care physician encountered along life’s path needs to have a copy of the journal and should demonstrate that they are aware of late-term side effects possible with past cancer treatments.

Did you know that there is a free App for Android and Apple phones available just for survivors?  Akron Children’s Hospital and Hyundai Hope on Wheels have put childhood cancer survivor resources and tools into your hands.  Check it out!

If your child is presently in cancer treatment now, talk to your oncologist or palliative care contact to ensure that you will have a complete record of all treatments.

Author: Joe Baber

** Source: American Cancer Society, Childhood and Adolescent Cancer Statistics, 2014 published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, January 31, 2014.

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Childhood Cancer by the Numbers

numbersNumbers are wonderful. Numbers are dangerous. Having spent most of my career in management, within the retail sector, I have been conditioned to pay attention to numbers. Numbers can paint a picture.  Numbers can be your navigator. They can show at a glance and without prejudice, success or failure.  Numbers don’t contain opinions or emotions, just facts. Numbers, like grapes or peaches or tomatoes, are good if fresh and gathered properly, packaged and presented with care.  On the other hand, if numbers are stale or gathered without care for accuracy or aren’t processed properly, the navigation 15720they provide will certainly take you in the wrong direction.

Since joining the childhood cancer community, I have paid attention to the numbers that are thrown around everywhere.  We’ve all heard the numbers: 80% cure rate for all childhood cancers, 7 children die each day, 36 kids diagnosed daily in the USA, 720 diagnosed daily in the world, 250 kids die every day worldwide, and so on.

To me, the most surprising and irritating numerical unit of measure I have heard in the childhood cancer world happens when very educated people try to measure our successes in treating childhood cancer.  They say things like, “In the last three or four decades, we 5_65_96have made tremendous progress in …”  In the entire fifty years I spent in retail management, I know for a fact, no one ever used  “decade” as a unit of measure to gauge any type of progress.  To know where we were headed, our units of measure were: yesterday, week, month, quarter, half, year.  Never, “decade!”  When you measure the past in decades, you are implying that advancement will also take decades.  We don’t have the time to wait that long. Kids are dying!

The best report should be a collection of numbers in black and white, positive, negative, or whatever it is, but factual and clear to the reader so they can make their own conclusions.  A good report will be clear enough to have most people come to the same consensus. Having said that, I have to admit, when it comes to childhood cancer, for me there is one element that is always involved.  It’s emotion.  Pure parental emotion.  I can’t help it. I am guilty of mixing my strong parental emotions with everything that involves children.   Sometimes the emotions are much stronger than the numbers.83

Last September, at the Hyundai Hope on Wheels banquet in Washington, DC., I was seated at a table with Dr. Jennifer Cullen, a board member of the American Childhood Cancer Organization and a cancer epidemiologist who works at the Department of Defense. We had a wonderful conversation.  I assumed she was like the other doctors at the dinner, there to show support and to be honored, until I found out that she had lost her daughter Alexandra to medulloblastoma at age five.  I will never forget the look in her eyes when she told me. Talk about getting emotional with numbers!  This is a mother who lost her daughter and an epidemiologist studying childhood cancer statistics. Can you imagine how that would be?

CAjournalThe American Cancer Society (ACS) (I know I have been a very harsh critic, but please bear with me) recently published a report, “Childhood Cancer Statistics 2014,” in “A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.”  I applaud their efforts to clarify the state of childhood cancer today and feel the report will be very helpful. Jennifer Cullen wrote the accompanying article that was introduced with the ACS report. Her commentary is entitled, “Because Statistics Don’t tell the Whole Story: A Call for Comprehensive Care for Children with Cancer.”  To me, she brings emotion to the numbers and to the fact filled tables.  Regardless of any of the numbers, she makes a strong case in her appeal to improve the care for children with cancer by utilizing better communication skills among the clinicians and utilizing palliative care. She will convince any reader to seek out palliative care for any child with cancer.  She speaks with experience and from the heart, just as she did when I first met her. I too am an advocate for palliative care for every 1690child with cancer. It’s not the same as hospice or end of life care.  It’s for all children with cancer. It can help in the curing of the child.

I am happy to report the measurement unit, “decade” was not used in the ACS report. Nowhere did I see the offensive statement, “In the last four decades…. Yada, yada, yada.” While I am struggling with comparing all their numbers with my perceptions of what they should be or have been in the past, the twenty-one page report is rather matter-of-fact. I will assume the numbers are correct. One reason numbers seem to vary from one organization to another is because they use different age classes among the organizations. We need to all use the same standardized age groups going forward so the information from one organization is comparable with another.  The part I like the most in the ACS report is that it breaks down the five year observed cure rate by specific cancers. That’s important to determine where we are making progress and where we need to place our priorities.

5yearsurvivalIn the ACS report table 3. reflects the five year observed survival rates for the period 1975-1979. As low as these survival rates are, they reflect large improvements over previous years.  Survival rates were extremely low before 1975. Here are some examples that St. Jude’s reported in 1962 when they opened their hospital: AL Leukemia was only 4%, Non-Hodgens Lymphoma was only 7%, and both medulloblastoma and neuroblastoma were each only 10% while Ewing Sarcoma was a low 5%. DIPG was less than 1% then as it is today.

Newly reported survival rates for the period 2003-2009 show large improvements over the 1975-1979 period and at the same time, highlight area’s with slower improvement growth.

Reporting numbers in this manner provides better navigation for the future. It gives direction and points out areas of opportunity.  To really capitalize on this guidance, we need to continue this type of reporting. Our ability to strengthen our reporting process in the future will affect how and where we set our priorities in treating childhood cancer. We should all be looking forward to the next report in the future. Hopefully, we can have annual reporting so we can compare 2004-2010 with 2003-2009. By reporting in this manner, we are better able to see where we are going. It will be uncomfortable for those who like to use decades because it is easy to see progress but difficult to see current direction.

“Progress in childhood cancer has been dramatic for some sites (types of cancer), but we cannot let that blind us from the fact that progress has been disappointingly slow for other sites, and that cancer remains the second leading cause of death in children,” said Otis W. Brawley, M.D., American Cancer Society chief medical officer. “There is much work to be done to improve outcomes, to reduce side effects associated with cancer and its treatment, and, we hope, to understand more about the molecular events that lead to childhood cancer in order to come up with ways to prevent or detect it early.”

1In their report, the American Cancer Society predicts 2014 will see children diagnosed with cancer increasing to 15,720 and deaths of children (aged birth to 19) dropping to 1,960. Numbers are important, no doubt about it, but the most important number to parents will always be the number one. Will cancer occur to one of mine?  Will cancer take the one I love?

In order to protect our most important number, we need to gather accurate and timely information, report it properly and pay close attention to all of the numbers and take action where indicated.

Author: Joe Baber

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