Many things made Anna, Anna. Her giggle, her blue eyes, her smile, the way she would kick her feet when she crawled towards the stairs. I can still envision her waving her fingers in the air and bouncing on her knees. We have so many pictures of Anna smiling and happy. For a time, side effects from treatment stole our sweet girl from us. Many months of therapy and prayers slowly brought Anna back and she re-learned to sit-up, crawl and cruise again. She would help the nurses use her central line, wiping the ends off with an alcohol swab.
Anna liked putting things together, whether it was putting a cap on a water bottle or connecting a syringe to an extra feeding tube extension. She loved songs and books, too. Anna did her own feeding therapy munching on cheese puffs, licking the salt off pretzels and putting them back in the bag, dipping chips and her whole arm in chip dip. She had the most perfect grasp of crayons. Anna was both an artist and comedian in the making. Once you experienced Anna smile or laugh, your heart was hers.
After her initial tumor resection, our little smiling and happy girl was left emotionally and physically devastated. She could no longer smile, eat, talk/babble, sit-up or crawl. Her happy demeanor was now one of irritability and discomfort. As Anna endured months of surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and stem cell transplants, each treatment had its own unique and often horrific set of tortures. Treatments stole at least 8 months of Anna’s life, and cancer stole a hundred years.Shaving our heads was emotional, but we got through it side by side, with our little angel Anna watching over us. Shaving empowered us to honor Anna’s memory and to raise awareness for childhood cancer at the same time. It was amazingly heartwarming and reassuring to watch so many of our friends and family, men and women, shave their heads in honor of Anna.
Childhood cancer spares no one. Until Anna’s cancer diagnosis, she was perfect – rarely sick and always happy. Anna was the first in our family to get cancer. Despite vast improvements in survival statistics, some cancers remain difficult to treat. This includes the AT/RT brain cancer that took Anna’s life on February 19, 2012, just two weeks after her 2nd birthday.Existing cancer treatments can be as deadly and devastating as the cancer itself. We support St. Baldrick’s because they are committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long and healthy lives. Anna was treated at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. Few foundations collectively support all of these hospitals. St. Baldrick’s does, however, through a combination of funding for the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), which funds important pediatric clinical trials, and grants directly to doctors and researchers at these hospitals.
Until a cure is found, we will continue to help conquer childhood cancers.