A Childhood Cancer Survivor Blogging about the World of Childhood Cancer

Posts tagged ‘childhood cancer’

Curefest DC 2014 on the National Mall– Photo Memories

Curefest 2014 422After two days filled with inspiration  in Washington D.C., a third followed. CurefestDC 2014 began at 9 am on Sunday, September 21st on the National Mall. My decision not to brave the “waters” of the dreaded metro by myself on this morning proved to be a good one. I gobbled some breakfast in a taxi on the way and arrived with a full belly and a happy heart.

Festive is the word I would use to describe my first impression. My second impression was thankfulness for all the people who came, all the people who worked to create the event, and all the volunteers who donated their time to put this enormous event together. 

The setting for CurefestDC on the National Mall made everything that was there and everything that happened a notch or two more epic. Backdrops of the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument have a way of doing that. I understand there were more than 75 foundations present under the white pop-ups lining the mall. 

This was a day for the kids. I loved seeing kids scurrying around collecting as many wristbands as they possibly could. They hugged each other, sat on each other’s laps, walked, danced, and some even spoke. Survivors and siblings were honored and received special gifts.Curefest 2014 441

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One of the most fun and heart-warming times of this day was a butterfly release. Families were given boxes to open and free the butterflies inside. The look of wonder, awe, and joy on the kids’ faces was alone worth the trip to D.C. Before opening the boxes, Ellyn Miller told the crowd, “These butterflies are for all of our kids.” With that, they gave their boxes a kiss, then opened them up to reveal the life within.

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 Abby Miller sang the National Anthem while Delaney Clements held our nation’s flag. The walk began…

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The camaraderie present was something so strong that it seemed possible to physically touch it. The gorgeous somber and reflective tone of the night before at the White House transformed into a tone of courage, love and purpose– even joy. 

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Dancers danced in honor and in memory of children fighting cancer. Here, dancers hug Delaney Clements after their performance.

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Joel Waldman, from Fox 5 NY, received an award of recognition and thanks for his outstanding work to bring awareness to childhood cancer.

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Gabriella Miller’s mom, Ellyn and Erin Griffin’s mom, Amanda, had their heads shaved at the event to bring more awareness to childhood cancer.

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Billy Sherwood, crazy-cute and courageous survivor, helping at his mom’s booth for Arms Wide Open Childhood Cancer Foundation.

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I remember– I will never forget– how much Melinda hurt inside when she was in the middle of her cancer battle and she was not able to dance. This moment at Curefest brought back memories of pain, and at the same time it crushed those memories with the victory I witnessed when Gabi Shull took the stage and danced. Oh my gosh! Beautiful Gabi! 

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Thank you to Alvin Jones, Master of Ceremonies with a huge heart for the kids.

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The man who is turning the world gold #WorldGoGold, Tony Stoddard (Cole’s Dad) stands with Amanda Griffin (Erin’s Mom).

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is something epic about the setting of CurefestDC. Do you notice what is directly between Tony and Amanda in the photo above? Hello, elected representatives, childhood cancer activists are more organized and more determined than ever before to have you listen to our One Voice to create change for childhood cancer. We need cures right now for all kids.

Like ten year-old Gabriella Miller so eloquently stated, “Talk is bullshit, we need action.” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaoqnILa0l4

It’s not okay to sit back, flap our gums and do nothing. CurefestDC gave all of us an opportunity to do something. I think CurefestDC inspired everyone who was present. There is no greater cause than the health of our children. There is nothing like spending the weekend with people who know this is true. 

CurefestDC was one huge blast of hope and inspiration. 

Don’t worry, Gabriella, we’re going to do a LOT more than talk!

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Guest Blogger: Lee Marchiano

 

 

 

 

A Night of Golden Lights at the White House- CurefestDC

Curefest 2014 252After the Curefest DC Welcome Event at Nationals Stadium, the attendees all headed to President’s Park across the street from the front of the White House. I never would have arrived without the help of Karla, who introduced me to my very first ride on the Metro. Since I live in an area where there are rolling hills, oak trees, strawberry fields, and cows grazing, this was an eye-opening city experience for me. I know it’s normal for people who live in DC and other cities to travel on underground railways, but I admit that my usual Podunk surroundings make it so I am utterly amazed by the setting and all the people! Thanks Karla– I would still be standing in the station with my mouth open.

Is it any surprise that A Night of Golden Lights is the brainchild of none-other-than Tony Stoddard? (A Day of Yellow and Gold to Fight Childhood CancerOur time together at this event was exceptional. I wish I knew the name of the singing group who sang “If I die Young” — it was beautiful! I do have this photo of the singers with Ellyn Miller (Smashing Walnuts Foundation) and her son.

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Mike Gillette, Emmy Award-Winning Filmmaker from The Truth 365, helped organize the evening’s events with Tony Stoddard. Thank you, Mike and Tony, for your never-ending passion and energy for the kids.

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One of the most meaningful moments for me of Curefest DC came next. Tony began by telling us about his son, Cole. Cole died from Stage 4 Neuroblastoma. I highly recommend reading this article Tony wrote for Cancer Knowledge Network, telling his story. https://cancerkn.com/promise-son/ Being present to hear Tony tell his story is something I will always carry inside me, and what followed next will stay with me forever. Parents and brothers and sisters took the stage to tell their stories. We need this. Giving these people a microphone and a caring, compassionate audience was beautiful. Each person who shared seemed comfortable that they were talking to a group who truly wanted to listen. We were all “family” on this night. We were all one. We were not separate. We were not alone.

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This tender and precious time of sharing set the tone for what we would do next… walk to the front of the White House.

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Slowly, almost somberly, the crowd began walking. I walked behind Tony, imagining what must be going through his mind and his heart. It was a time of reflection as our group neared our destination. If someone dropped a pin, we all would have heard it. It was a time of honor. It was a time of respect. It was a time of memory. It was a time of conviction that we need to do all we can to see that the pain and suffering present inside so many would not go without acknowledgement– would not wither without action or purpose.

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As we lit and lifted our golden lights together, we lifted our voices to sing, “Amazing Grace.” We sang the first verse through three times in a row. (Everyone chuckled when they announced we would do this because it is the only verse everyone knows!) A Night of Golden Lights at the White House was an evening I will always remember. I was wishing our president was not vacationing, so he and his family could look out their window and see hope for children with cancer. My next thought was, “It doesn’t matter.” What matters is that all of these people gathered with One Voice for our kids. 

To be among these people is life-changing. Each person I met left a piece of their heart in mine. I hope I was able to leave them a warm piece of my heart as well. 

Night of Golden Lights White House

Guest Blogger: Lee Marchiano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curefest DC Welcome Event at Nationals Stadium

National Angel QuiltIf you missed CurefestDC this year, you can always begin planning for next year’s event that will take place on September 19th and 20th, 2015. After attending this year, I find it is a must for me to begin planning on attending next year as well.

The Welcome Event at Nationals Stadium was a wonderful time of entertainment, fun games, great food, and treasured times meeting others. Thank you to Arms Wide Open Childhood Cancer Foundation, Stillbrave Foundation, Smashing Walnuts Foundation, Children’s National, and Kyle’s Kamp for sponsoring the event! Families were decked out in their foundation and team support t-shirts. As we entered the stadium for the CurefestDC event check-in, the National Angel Quilt was gorgeously displayed. I had read about the emotional impact the quilt has on those who see it for the first time. I felt I was “ready.” There is nothing that can prepare one for this. On first glance, it is massive. The sheer size of the quilt speaks volumes about how many kids have suffered and died from childhood cancer. Seeing the children’s faces and reading their birth and death dates… 

At first, I felt I couldn’t breathe through the huge lump in my throat. Then, I had to stand back against the wall. As my body finally breathed in a breath, it came back out of me in a whimper. The whimper took over. It felt like I breathed in each one of those children’s souls and breathed out their suffering. I stood back to weep, not caring who saw me, not caring what anyone thought. My thoughts were, “This is why we are here. This is why we all need to step up for research for cures.”

National Angel Quilt

National Angel Quilt

Capitol Building

The Welcome Event was super-kid-friendly. Kids enjoyed a bounce house and lots of crafts and games. For some reason, they would not let me in the bounce house (ha ha!) This meant I needed to go back to the food table and eat an icing-topped cookie that looked like a baseball. Yum! The entertainment was spectacular; I was happy to see and hear Nicole Ricken perform again and to see her sister, Alyssa as well.

Nicole Ricken performing at CurefestDC 2014 Welcome Event

Nicole Ricken performing at CurefestDC 2014 Welcome Event

The fun went on and on, with Tattoo Tom Mitchell from Stillbrave Foundation spreading joy and tattoos. I am officially tagging Tom as a Kid-Magnet!

Tatto Tom spreading joy and tattoos

Tattoo Tom spreading joy and tattoos

“One day, the whole world will feel the touch of gold.”

~Dr. Irene Koesters

Curefest Welcome Event t-shirt

Curefest Welcome Event  — One Voice for Childhood Cancer

The very best thing about the Welcome Event? 

Voices for childhood cancer combined with action against childhood cancer.

Know what? This is a deadly combination for childhood cancer. 

Keep it up.

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Guest Blogger: Lee Marchiano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Cincinnati Bengals – Coming Together For a Greater Purpose

Austin Munoz Moorpark Football Senior Night

Austin Munoz –Moorpark Football Senior Night

Dear Cincinnati Bengals,

Thank you.

As a parent of a childhood cancer survivor, I praise your recent decisions surrounding Devon Still and his daughter, Leah, who is fighting stage 4 neuroblastoma. No one knows the darkness of those words, “Your child has cancer,” than parents who have heard them. No one knows the hopelessness, the despair, the panic, or the chaos of that moment than parents who have lived it.

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“Dealing with cancer is like a whole different world.”

~Devon Still

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What you have chosen to do is a mark of excellence. Your decision to retain Devon— even when his mind and heart were quite understandably elsewhere— is top-notch. Your organization’s decisions demonstrate the strength of character, compassion, and integrity of those in your front office. If I could, I would hug each and every one of you. As I did, you would see the tears in my eyes that are now rolling down my cheeks. It’s hard for me to believe that not everyone makes choices like you have. It touches me deep into my soul to see you have chosen humanity over financial gain. I believe you will see this is a wise choice as well in the not-so-long-future. Devon will become an even better player than he has ever been. Once you have witnessed your child fight for their life, you become a warrior too… one who will move the heavens and Earth to accomplish your goals.

Cincinnati Bengals, you are one class act.

And you haven’t stopped there. Not only have you retained Devon, but you have gone an entire football field farther by stepping up to raise money for pediatric cancer research! This is a gift that will save children’s lives!

Leah will be in my prayers. Devon, his wife, and his family will all be in my prayers. The entire Bengal organization will be in my prayers of gratitude.

Thank you for kicking childhood cancer out of Paul Brown Stadium!

May many other organizations follow the lead you have taken. You have set a fine example of coming together for a greater purpose!

With sincere thanks and squishy hugs,

Lee Marchiano

Momcologist & Childhood Cancer Advocate

“It’s not all about competition. It’s not all about what you can do on the field, but we come together for a greater purpose.”

~Devon Still

youtu.be/xl0sjEWKYI8 

Photo shared from Twitter @dev_Still71

Leah Still

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http://www.cincinnati.com/story/sports/nfl/bengals/2014/09/14/cincinnati-bengals-devon-still-leah-still/15647737/

Help the Bengals SACK PEDIATRIC CANCER

https://www.pldgit.com/campaign/768450939739702307

Devon Still jersey– $15 goes to pediatric cancer research. (Over $400,000 raised in just four days!)

http://www.cincyshirts.com/cincyshirts//still-strong-devon-still-shirt.html

 

 

If Childhood Cancer was in Human Form…

Nurse Cyndi, the Blue Chemo Fairy

Nurse Cyndi, the Blue Chemo Fairy

The truths in my last post about what childhood cancer has in common with landing on the moon continue to circulate through my mind and heart. What speaks loudest to me is that we are ignoring the urgency of the need for cures for childhood cancer. There is so little awareness of childhood cancer that we accept “what is.” Many people assume that any child with cancer can go to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and receive free treatment that will cure them for life.

Ugh.

There is no known cause for childhood cancer.

Getting a proper diagnosis for a child with cancer can be an all-out mission of searching.

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, 80% have advanced stages of the disease, compared to 20% in adults.

Treatment for childhood cancers (if there is one) are ancient.

“Research for children with cancer-especially for those with solid tumors like sarcomas and brain cancer—lags nearly two decades behind their adult counterparts.”

~Eugenie Kleinerman, M.D., Division Head, Division of Pediatrics, TheUniversity of Texas MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital

NCI funding for childhood cancer research has been dwindling, with a 30% decrease over the past decade. Pediatric cancer research receives a tiny 4% of the total NCI budget. This is critical. Federal funding for pediatric cancer research is vital, due to the fact that pharmaceutical companies do not see returns on their investments like they do for developing drugs to treat adult cancers. Virtually all the funding for pediatric cancer research comes from the NCI. Cuts to this budget greatly harm the Children’s Oncology Group and block medical discoveries that will lead to saving the lives of our children.

“Accounting for inflation, NCI’s funding has decreased by more than $1.1 billion (24.7 percent) since FY 2003.”

(The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009)

Where I really want to go here is beyond the statistics. We are talking about children. We are talking about children who are fighting for their lives. We are talking about seven children dying from cancer each and every day in our country. We are talking about lack of research which means outdated treatments that cause a lifetime of suffering—if a child does indeed survive.

Imagine…

Imagine that childhood cancer was in human form, not disease form.

Would we carry on with our lives as if we had not a care in the world while an assassin showed up and killed 7 children each day in this country? Would we call in the FBI, the Navy Seals, and every single solitary team that could possibly snuff out this killer? Would we develop ways to protect our children from this evil monster? Would we wait a day, a week, a month, a year, to act? 

If childhood cancer was in human form, we would have already captured and killed it.

Just because childhood cancer is in disease form does not mean this is not urgent!

As I prepare to travel to Washington, D.C. next week for childhood cancer events, including Curefest, I keep thinking of Erin Griffin and Gabriella Miller. Both girls spoke at last year’s event. This year, they will not be able to attend in person. They will be viewing the event from heaven.

This IS urgent! THIS IS URGENT!

Sometimes I wish childhood cancer was in human form. I wish it could meet Mohammed Ali in his prime in the ring.

Pin The Bag of Chemo on the Mass

Pin The Bag of Chemo on the Mass

Guest Blogger: Lee Marchiano

Something you can do today to help end childhood cancer:

https://www.curebraincancer.org.au/page/98/petition

http://4sqclobberscancer.com/2013/02/24/dear-congressman/

 

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