It’s Valentine’s Day and that means exchanging cards, chocolates, teddy bears, and flowers with loved ones. The prevailing symbol of Valentine’s Day is the heart – which makes sense, given that the day is all about showing love and affection.
Because the heart is so central to Valentine’s Day, it’s a useful time to reflect on how childhood cancers impact this vital organ. Unfortunately, childhood cancers affect far more than the parts of the body in which they emerge – brain cancer doesn’t just harm the brain; leukemia doesn’t just affect the blood; and bone cancers often spread to the major organs.
The Furco family spent their holiday vacation traveling somewhere they’ve dreamed of going — to Italy with their child Ambassador Abby, who had cancer. How’d they do it? Read on for 11 travel tips from Abby’s mom, Patty, who is ready to share how you can successfully take a child with medical needs on a trip of a lifetime.
Ambassador Abby pretends to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa while on vacation in Italy.
Traveling with family is tough. But vacationing with a child in treatment or with ongoing medical needs brings it to another level. It takes a lot of forethought, from the what ifs, to making sure you have the right supplies, to planning for proper medication storage during travel – whew, it’s exhausting just thinking about it. But all the hard work is so worth it.
This two-day event in Washington, D.C. brought advocates to Capitol Hill to share their stories and ask their representatives to:
- Co-Sponsor the STAR Act — the most comprehensive childhood cancer bill ever introduced to Congress
- Support the inclusion of the RACE Act in the FDA User Fee Bill
- Increase federal funding for cancer research
Here is a little behind-the-scenes look at our day on the Hill…
If you’re committed to raising funds for childhood cancer research and supporting a kid, then you can make a head-shave happen anywhere — even another continent. Just ask Dr. John York, a virtual shavee and long-distance member of Team Abby!
Dr. John York with his fellow shavees in front of their base in Djibouti, Africa. From left to right: Dr. York, Captain James Black and Lieutenant Commander Christian Minshall.
In fact, on April 29, he was at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, Africa, nearly 8,000 miles from the head-shaving event in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, your favorite lovebirds are back — 2012 Ambassador Sarah and her honey Patrick. You remember how it all began, almost 10 years ago — boy meets girl, girl fights cancer with boy by her side, boy pops the question. Now read on for the happiest of happy endings.
Photos courtesy of Chelsie Darling Photography
Patrick and I tied the knot on October 29, 2016. It started like any other good day, with Starbucks and reflection.
I kept thinking, ‘I am about to marry the man who had loved me through it all — through long distances, relapse, transplant, recovery, and finishing my degree. He has never failed to love me.’
I had no fears about our marriage standing the test of time, because we had already been through so much together. Our wedding day had been more than nine years in the making – and what a day it was!
Abby was first diagnosed with Ph+ ALL, a rare and aggressive type of leukemia, in February 2011. Soon, Abby was on a unique combination chemotherapy treatment available to her because of St. Baldrick’s-funded research.
Over the summer, Abby’s dad shared some news with us: Abby was still cancer free, but her organs were failing. The doctors told her she had 48 hours to live. But Abby disagreed, and four months later, Abby’s mom wants us to know that Abby is still here — and she’s been busy!
Abby and her mom on the beach in the spring. Abby underwent a bone marrow transplant for relapsed Ph+ acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January 2015 and has been battling complications ever since.
It’s been four months since we brought Abby home.
We brought our baby home because the doctors truly believed that Abby was beyond saving and it was time for end-of-life care. All of the signs were there. To all of the health care professionals from many hospitals and specialties, Abby’s body was failing and we were doing more to her than for her.
Last month, we shared a glimpse into Abby’s life after a bone marrow transplant and the complications brought on by the very treatments that saved her life. Although cancer free, some of her organs are beyond repair. But even through these difficult days, Abby’s spirit remains strong. Her dad shares this update.
Abby with her family.
Thursday morning before work, Abby’s doctors called.
On the line were two of her transplant doctors, some intensive care specialists, a social worker, and a quality of life doctor. They suggested I come back to the hospital to be with Abby and her mom, although there was nothing emergent.
Abby is sick, they said.
Today is National Cancer Survivors Day, and we’re bringing you an update on one incredible 9-year-old: Abby. (You might remember her from this video.) Abby’s cancer free today, but for the past year, she’s been battling complications of the bone marrow transplant that saved her life.
Watch the new video to see why cancer free doesn’t mean trouble free.
Last month, 2012 Ambassador Sarah told us how excited she was for her upcoming shave. We were, too — so we filmed it!
When Sarah Swaim says that she knows what kids with cancer are going through, it’s true.
That’s because the three-time shavee is also a two-time childhood cancer survivor.
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