Austin is now 8 and has been cancer free for five years.
Our boys were 3 ½ and 10 months old. We lived in a different house. We were different people.
Because it changed everything.
Krissy Gallagher, mom of 2012 Ambassador Austin, shares how childhood cancer research impacted their family, and why they’ve stayed involved with St. Baldrick’s through the years.
Krissy and her husband, Mark, with their two boys, Austin and Braedan, at a St. Baldrick’s event last year.
But every day we know that we’re the lucky ones because we’ve never had to hear the words, “There’s nothing else we can do.”
And the reason for that is childhood cancer research. If Austin had been diagnosed with his rare cancer 20 years earlier than he was, I’m pretty confident he wouldn’t be here today. Pretty positive, in fact. But somebody 20 years ago funded the research that saved his life. Now it’s our turn to do the same for some other child, and some other mother, 20 years from now.
Last month, 2012 Ambassador Austin had another round of clear scans. He is now officially a four-year survivor of bilateral Wilms tumor. His energy is boundless, he’s loving gymnastics, and he recently mastered his back handspring. His mom, Krissy, shares this update.
2012 Ambassador Austin, now 7, has been cancer free for four years.
Today’s scans, which included blood work, a chest x-ray, an EKG, an echocardiogram, and an abdominal ultrasound, all came back clear.
Unchanged, no evidence of disease, and — my favorite — unremarkable. Which always strikes me as ever so remarkable.
As we walked out of the clinic hand in hand after five hours of appointments, he swung my arm and casually said, “That was fun.”
And he meant it. Which also strikes me as ever so remarkable.
Austin is 7 years old and has been cancer free for over three years.
This was the first time he could read the Scrabble tiles outside the waiting room doors, connecting words like head, neck, legs, and toe to Pediatric Radiology (what, no kidney?).
And there he sat, reading a book all by himself.
Krissy Gallagher with son, Autin, St. Baldrick’s 2012 Ambassador, who was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a type of childhood cancer. Photos: Carman and Pugh Photography (www.carmanandpugh.com)
He hemmed and hawed a bit and eventually settled on something great with a lowercase g, something mundane and everyday, like playing with his kids, or walking with his wife, or performing on a stage (everyday for him, at least).
Now, it’s likely that Willie Nelson simply can’t remember every hazy, blurred-by-pot moment of his life. But it’s also possible that sometimes the “best” moments are just moments, the simple everyday interactions with those we love: sitting on the porch with great friends eating delicious food, drinking wine and laughing til your stomach hurts. Or snuggling up in bed with your two sweet boys on a lazy Sunday morning. Or knowing, in a quiet easy sort of way, that you picked the right man with whom to spend the rest of your life.
2012 Ambassador Austin, right, with his older brother, Braedan.
After the funeral service on Christmas Eve, my grandmother went to lie down and my brothers and I ended up in her basement, one of our favorite places in her house (we’d spent many vacations roller skating around and around on that smooth concrete floor). But this time we searched through her neatly stacked boxes until we found some labeled “Christmas.” We quietly lugged everything upstairs and by the time my grandmother awoke from her nap, we had decorated a small fake tree in the living room and hung stockings over the fireplace. Just because our Grampy was gone didn’t mean we had to give up Christmas!
It’s that time of year again . . . the smell of freshly sharpened pencils in the air, the sound of school buses rolling down the street and the stack of paperwork for parents to fill out each evening. As I sit at my kitchen table completing the blue Who’s Eligible To Pick My Child Up From School form and the goldenrod Emergency Contact form and salmon Photo Release form, I am stopped in my tracks by the green Medical History form.
In late 2009, Patrick McCarrick, long-time St. Baldrick’s volunteer and shavee, decided to do something that would inspire people to join him in the fight to conquer childhood cancers. He established Climb for Five (C45) – a team with a mission to summit the highest peaks on each of the continents while raising funds and awareness for life-saving childhood cancer research. Since then, the C45 Team has climbed Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro in 2010 and Washington state’s Mount Rainier in 2011.
By Krissy Dietrich Gallagher, mother to Austin, St. Baldrick’s Ambassador Kid
There is no superlative form of the word “relieved.” When you’re really, really happy, you’re ecstatic. And when you’re really, really mad, you’re furious. But when it comes to relief, the word is the same whether you say, “I’m so relieved it didn’t rain on our picnic” or “I’m so relieved my child doesn’t have cancer for the third time and isn’t about to lose what remains of his only kidney.”
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