A ‘Minuscule’ Sacrifice to Help Fight Pediatric Cancer

10506655_10152634864171441_3601000187279877683_oBy Tanya Friese

I consciously joined the Navy just before the first Gulf War because I had no children and did not see the need for those who had families to risk the consequences of service. Friends and colleagues came back diagnosed (as adults) with pediatric cancers. They did not receive medals, rather a diagnosis that typically resulted in an amputated limb.

I went back to school, as a disabled veteran, to become a nurse to care for those who often have little voice in their prognosis. In the pediatric ICU at Rush, I have cared for children dealing with the ramifications of a cancer diagnosis. I encounter these brave souls as I teach our nursing students in the community.

In the military, one obviously faces danger and encounters enemies both foreign and domestic — often on a daily basis. That is what we signed up for — what we pledged our loyalty to. Children (and their families, however defined) never enlisted in a diagnosis that begins with the big “C.”

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Shaving Heads to Fight Pediatric Cancer

St Baldricks Roving0593By Joanna Hui

In the United States, cancer is the leading cause of death by disease past infancy. One out of 285 U.S. children are diagnosed with cancer before they turn 20 years old. In 2015, about 10,380 children under the age of 15 in the United States alone will be diagnosed with cancer.

I don’t know about you, but for me that’s a heartbreaking statistic. It’s hard to think that so many families will be faced with the possible reality of losing their child before they have a chance to graduate high school, get married, or have children of their own.

Even if pediatric cancer patients successfully fight their cancer, two-thirds of them must endure long-term effects of treatment such as hearing loss, learning disabilities, infertility, heart disease, second cancers, and the list goes on.

Another unpalatable reality is the fact that less than 4 percent of funds for cancer research is allotted specifically toward pediatric cancer research.

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Shaving Heads for Pediatric Cancer Research

A "shavee" at Rush's 2013 event to raise money for pediatric cancer research. The 2014 event is scheduled for Feb. 28.

A “shavee” at Rush’s 2013 event to raise money for pediatric cancer research. The 2014 event is scheduled for Feb. 28.

By Joseph Lee

In the United States, a child under the age of 20 is diagnosed with cancer every three minutes. So in the time it takes to read this piece, a family will be faced with the very real possibility of losing their child, as there are many cancers where progress towards a cure is still very limited. And even those that are cured of their cancer, their battle continues with chronic health problems or other life-threatening conditions.

While the government and foundations continue to invest in adult cancer research, childhood cancers are left to fend for themselves. In fact, all types of childhood cancers receive only 4 percent of the total U.S. federal funding for cancer research, with pharmaceutical companies investing even less.

So the question becomes if not us, then who? If not now, then when? Should we wait until more children are stripped of the opportunity to go to school or fall in love? Or ask more parents to stay strong while their children go through grueling treatments or are lost altogether?

This is where St. Baldrick’s comes into play. Through the help of dedicated physicians, such as Dr. Paul Kent, students, families, friends, patients and survivors, we seek to close the funding gap. Through events across the country, with head shaving being the premier event, over $30 million was raised in 2013.

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Parting With Their Hair For Pediatric Cancer Research

Staff and students at Rush University Medical Center gave up their hair for a good cause at the March 29 St. Baldrick’s Fundraiser, proceeds from which will go to pediatric cancer research. Learn more.

A Patient and an ‘Ambassador’

As Paul Kent, MD, sees it, patient Sam LiBassi has become something of a Rush ambassador.

“He spends his time in the hospital making friends with the other patients, visiting them, making them laugh, making them smile,” says Kent, a pediatric oncologist at Rush University Medical Center, in an interview with WCIU.

Twenty-three-year-old LiBassi, who’s being treated for cancer at Rush, says he didn’t have such a positive attitude at the outset.

“I was like, this is awful … I never want to come here again,” he tells WCIU. “And then afterwards I was like, you know what? That’s just a horrible attitude to have because I’m going to have to be here whether I like it or not, so I just decided to change my attitude to I don’t like this but I have to deal with it, so let’s make the best of it.”

Fellow patient Katie Sanderson says LiBassi helps lift her spirits when she’s down.

“When he walks in you just see him smile,” she says, “and it’s awesome.”

Watch the video from WCIU’s You & Me This Morning:

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Fighting for Young Cancer Patients

By Paul Kent, MD

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Illinois graciously nominated me for the 2011 Man and Woman of the Year. I accepted with the understanding that we would be going for “Team of the Year.” The winner will be announced today at the grand finale.

I am a 47-year-old father of four (ages 7, 7, 6 and 3), happily married to Rush pediatrician Margaret Scotellaro. I have been a pediatric oncologist fo 13 years, and at Rush University Medical Center since 2004.

Our team is called “Tougher than Cancer,” from a T-shirt worn by little Josephina Singh (who also had a T-shirt that said “My Oncologist can Beat up Your Oncologist” – which was not quite as good a team name!). Continue reading

Rush Students Bare Heads for Cancer Research

By Thomas Holland

St. Baldrick’s is a national organization that promotes the research of pediatric oncology by providing grants to various doctors and researchers across the nation. The money provided in the grants is raised by countless events with thousands of participants.

This year there have already been 902 events with 40,700 shavees. St. Baldrick’s is operated as a purely volunteer charity. It is hailed as a top organization that gets the highest percentage of money raised to the individuals that best utilize it, like Rush’s own Dr. Paul Kent, who was noted on the St. Baldrick’s website as the chosen caregiver for National Volunteer Week.

My own interest in St. Baldrick’s was spawned by Dr. Kent. While talking with him about volunteering, he took me around the floor and gave me a bracelet with the phone number of St. Baldrick’s.

The second annual Rush University St. Baldrick’s Event was on April 1. After an invigorating speech, we got down to the business of shaving people’s heads. Continue reading