Harlem and his mom, Lisa. Harlem is one of five 2014 St. Baldrick’s Ambassadors.
I’ll never know the answers to these questions, but I do know that modern medicine has come a long way. Having lost my mother to breast cancer nearly 20 years ago, I could only imagine that my son would be the next person I’d lose to this dreaded disease. Could this child, who has been so full of life since birth, be held back by this diagnosis?
The answer to that question was no! It was Harlem’s disposition that got me through the rough days — and I don’t mean his roughest days, because thankfully he did not have any. As a mother, you want to protect your child and bare any pain they may encounter. The feeling of helplessness pours over you day in and day out. You are happy to see your child’s eyes open in the morning and afraid to see them close at night, praying that this isn’t the last precious moment with them.
At 35, Dr. Greg Aune underwent emergency heart surgery to repair the consequences of the childhood cancer treatment he endured as a teen. Now, with support from St. Baldrick’s, he’s working in the lab to understand exactly how chemotherapy damages the heart — and how we can protect kids with cancer from the deadly long-term health consequences of their treatment.
Dr. Aune was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma when he was 16. He is now a pediatric oncologist and a St. Baldrick’s infrastructure grant recipient.
This happened to Dr. Aune twice in less than 20 years.
As a physician-scientist, Dr. Aune regularly treats kids with cancer of all ages in the South Texas Pediatric Cancer Survivorship Program in San Antonio. He also studies the long-term effects of chemotherapy on the heart. And his St. Baldrick’s infrastructure grant is helping him and his colleague, Dr. Helen Parsons, to expand the survivorship clinic to better provide adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients with treatment appropriate for their unique needs.
But Dr. Aune said he probably wouldn’t have gone to medical school had he not experienced childhood cancer firsthand. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at 16 and underwent surgery followed by multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation before he was declared cancer free.
On February 10, 2013, I lost my favorite fishing guide, stand-up comedian, Target-trolling companion, and beagle babysitter when my younger brother passed away.While he had grown to tower over both me and my sister, he was always our little brother, the one we doted on and picked on relentlessly from the day he was born into our young adulthood.
Kiel (it’s the Irish spelling of Kyle, pronounced the same) had developed a strange bump on the left side of his neck by December 2012 and had been diagnosed with Stage IIB Hodgkin lymphoma just weeks before he passed away. His last few months on this plane of existence were not fun ones — he had been suffering severely from depression and anxiety, and his cancer diagnosis did nothing to alleviate that.
At 7 years old, Harlem has already proven himself to be a powerhouse on the track and on the soccer field. Looking at him now, you never would guess that he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 5. In fact, you might not have known it while he was in treatment, either — through round after round of chemotherapy, Harlem remained strong and lively as ever.
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