From the moment he was born, Ambassador Kellan has been fighting childhood cancer and its devastating effects. But he doesn’t fight alone. His dad, Dan, is right there with him — and Dan wouldn’t have it any other way. In honor of Father’s Day, Dan wrote this letter to Kellan to share how blessed he feels to be his dad.
Ambassador Kellan and his dad, Dan.
As I sit here writing this letter, you are in the operating room at Boston Children’s Hospital. This is a familiar place to you, your Mom and me. As we walked down the halls yesterday to check in, waves of emotion came over me as I reflected on the past six years. We have spent many days and weeks here since your birth.
They’ve told us that your operation will be approximately nine hours, but I know it’ll feel like a lifetime before I see you again. So, here I wait and try to put into words what it means to be your Dad. I don’t know that it’s possible to say exactly what it means to me. Although your smile and thumbs up prior to today’s surgery tells part of it.
Since day one of your life, you have been an inspiration. We watched your battle with cancer begin on the day of your birth. Chemotherapy started on day three. Your tumor resection surgery was month three. Hundreds of visits to the doctor, scans and appointments followed. At 17 months, you got your wheelchair and started to run, Kellan style. At year five we celebrated no evidence of disease — cancer free! Although you are free from cancer, you are paralyzed. Cancer left its mark, but it doesn’t define you or your remarkable life. This year, you were named an Ambassador for St Baldrick’s, an honor I know you don’t take lightly. Your willingness and ability to advocate for all children and families impacted by childhood cancer humbles me. You speak about it from the heart and I am filled with pride when you and your Mother work so hard for others.
Rebecca smiles with her 2-year-old daughter, Sophie.
Childhood cancer had already taken so many things from Rebecca Morrow. During treatment, her hair dropped out twice. She missed her entire seventh-grade year. Her social life evaporated. The treatment devastated her developing body. Sometimes when treatment got really tough, her drive to survive crumbled.
So, when the doctors told a teenage Rebecca that she’d likely never have children of her own, she shrugged it off.
Rebecca had already lost so much to childhood cancer. What was one more thing?
It’s National Cancer Survivors month and Nora, a 30-year survivor, has an important message for you — that being a childhood cancer survivor isn’t the end of the fight, not by a long shot. That’s why pediatric cancer survivors need you to fund kids’ cancer research, because more research not only makes more survivors, it helps those survivors live long and healthy lives.
Nora is a 30-year survivor of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She was diagnosed in March 1988 at the age of 10.
Dear St. Baldrick’s Supporter,
On my 10th birthday, I tripped. That’s all it was … I tripped and sprained my ankle. I was a healthy preteen, who would take any chance to dance around to George Michael or Rick Astley, but my ankle just wouldn’t heal. Months of wrong diagnoses followed until March 14, 1988, when I got the news I had cancer; lymphoma had spread to my bones. I had stage 4 cancer.
In the 80’s, you didn’t talk about childhood cancer. My world began to shrink the day I got my diagnosis. I couldn’t go to school, I stopped being invited to parties, my old friends drifted away and the new friends I made during treatment were dying. Ask any kid with cancer today if this sounds familiar – they’ll likely say yes. Unfortunately, things haven’t changed much and that’s why we need your help.
1. Each year, more children diagnosed with cancer will be cured, joining the growing population of long-term childhood cancer survivors.
Thanks to advances in chemotherapy, radiation and surgical techniques, more children and adolescents are being cured of cancer every year. Today, there are over 420,000 survivors of childhood cancer in the United States, representing approximately 1 in 750 young adults, and that number is expected to exceed 500,000 by the year 2020.
Today is the first day of National Cancer Survivors Month. To kick it off, 2014 Ambassador Lauren shares what survivorship means to her and gives us a peek into what life is like as a childhood cancer survivor.
Diagnosed at age 14 while still in high school, Lauren is now 20 years old and is pursuing her dream of becoming a pediatric oncologist, so she can devote her career to both to the treatment of kids with cancer and to the research to find cures.
June 7th, 2012 is a day that will forever be etched into my memory. This was the last day of my freshman year of high school, but also the day my life was forever changed. After eating dinner, my mother began shaking in her seat as my stepfather informed me that the tumor that had been removed from my abdomen was malignant and so were the surrounding lymph nodes. I had stage 4 neuroblastoma.
Honored Kid Sully loves to bike, run and wrestle with his brothers like any 11-year-old boy. He even tried out skiing over spring break. You’d never expect that just a year and a half ago, Sully woke up from surgery unable to walk.
Honored Kid Sully loves to bike, run, ride roller coasters and play with his brothers, Cashel and Finn. He wants to be a civil engineer when he grows up and dreams of designing the world’s best roller coasters.
It all started with back pain. It was innocuous at first. Hot baths would relieve Sully’s pain for a while, but it would come back with a vengeance. Finally, after many doctor’s visits, a lot of ibuprofen and no improvement, Sully’s parents, Dan and Jen, brought their son to the ER.
Hours later, the boy was in emergency brain surgery.
Marianne’s daughter, Melissa, is a 31-year survivor of pediatric brain cancer — essentially, she’s a miracle. But being a survivor doesn’t mean that the childhood cancer journey is over. Just the opposite. Here is Marianne with the story of a recent difficult chapter of Melissa’s ongoing struggle with the long-term effects of her treatment.
Marianne’s daughter, Melissa, with her nurse of 31 years. Melissa was diagnosed with brain cancer as a child and has since struggled with severe long-term effects from the intense treatment she received.
It’s been over 31 years and it can still make my heart race with fear. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer.
Melissa, my daughter, has lived independently for over 17 years, despite limitations caused by treatment for pediatric brain cancer. Seventeen years after finishing treatment, she began suffering through many seizures and 8 strokes. She was forced to quit her job with Disney and rely on disability benefits to pay her bills.
At St. Baldrick’s, funding childhood cancer research is our mission. But for six of our staff, the goal is deeply personal — because their children were diagnosed with cancer. Read on for thoughts from these moms on what Mother’s Day means to them, what they’ve learned about motherhood through the good times and bad, and how childhood cancer has changed their lives forever.
St. Baldrick’s staff members and cancer moms from left to right: Robyn with her son Keaton, Nancy with her son, Scott, and Vanessa with her daughter, Aubrey.
Danielle holds her son Mason, who was diagnosed with medulloblastoma in 2006. A force to be reckoned with, the little boy faced his cancer with stalwart determination and his signature stubbornness. Mason died in 2007.
Mother’s Day is always bittersweet for me. I will always be a mom to three boys. I just do not have one here with me because cancer took Mason’s life from us. Mother’s Day reminds me of Mason’s laughter, competitive nature, his love for his brother and the family we had. I am Mason’s mom. Cancer made me do things to my son I never imagined I would have to do to my child to get him to survive. Cancer taught me how to be a fierce advocate for my child. Cancer made me live my worst moments as a mom and some of the best. Cancer taught me I had to take care of and protect all my kids, not just the one who was sick. Cancer broke my heart. But being a mom to Mason, Mateo, and Marcus puts my heart back together every day.
Brooks was diagnosed with inoperable brain tumors when he was 5 years old. In May 2016, he passed away at home, surrounded by his family. “He did not like me to be sad,” said his mom, Tracey. “He had a caring and loving heart. He wanted everyone to be happy.”
After Ambassador Brooks got sick, he started painting – a hobby the 5-year-old had never considered before. His art was abstract and vibrant, bursting with life and joy. When he painted, it was as if he dipped his brush into his soul. A little bit of Brooks and his love was in every painting.
It was this art that St. Baldrick’s donor Mary Clency glimpsed when she was getting out of her car at the local craft store – a woman was carrying two bags emblazoned with these colorful paintings. Immediately, Mary knew exactly who it was. The woman was Brooks’ mom, Tracey Blackmore, someone Mary had held in her heart for years, but had never met.
Brooks had brought them together.
Joey Chamness has grown up from being St. Baldrick’s very first Ambassador to become a longtime shavee and the VEO of his college event — helping fundraise for childhood cancer research to the tune of thousands of dollars. Why does he do it? Because this survivor knows firsthand how important it is to find better, safer treatments and cures for kids with cancer.
(Left) Joey rests and watches movies during his treatment for osteosarcoma. (Right) Now a survivor, Joey speaks during a St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event.
21-year-old Joey Chamness considers himself lucky.
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