Cancer is the #1 disease killer of children in America. Over 600 children are diagnosed each year in the Carolinas, where there are only nine treatment locations for pediatric cancer. Many families struggle to find resources to get their child to lifesaving care. During September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas (CCP) is raising awareness of the challenges these families face and providing opportunities for Carolinians to lend their support.
When a child is diagnosed with cancer, families are confronted with unbelievable hardships. Parents must leave work and lose income for caregiving. Many are overwhelmed by the costs of traveling great distances to their child’s specialized care. CCP assists Carolina children and their families by providing financial support for transportation, food and lodging associated with treatment. The nonprofit also offers families assistance with coordinating access to care, provides opportunities for families to connect through monthly events and hosts a yearly Camp Victory, a summer program uniquely designed for children with cancer and their families.
“Families in NC and SC must repeatedly travel large distances to ensure their child receives critical cancer treatments,” said Laura Allen, CCP’s Executive Director. “For any family this can be a huge financial burden but for some families it is crushing. Thankfully, families in the Carolinas have somewhere to turn for help – Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas.”
Allen shares the story of an engaging 8-year-old boy from Upstate South Carolina whose family has benefited greatly from a partnership with CCP. Peyton was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a very rare type of brain tumor, when he was just five. He received treatment but soon relapsed.
Peyton’s mom did everything she could to get him to the treatments that were critical to his survival but with two little sisters at home the high costs associated with treatment rocked the family’s world. Then, Peyton’s doctors advised they had run out of local treatment options and recommended a clinical trial in New York. With CCP’s help, Peyton was able to travel to New York City’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center many times to receive the new experimental treatment.
For the past two years CCP has enabled the family to make these trips so Peyton could get lifesaving care, despite the substantial costs of transportation, meals and lodging. CCP’s staff and volunteers have also offered support and encouragement for Peyton’s family through other programs like Camp Victory and frequent special events where families can connect with others who are fighting cancer.
“Peyton would not be here today if it weren’t for them (CCP), because I couldn’t afford it,” said his mom, Suzanne Gesing. “They helped and now he is cancer free!”
With the courage Peyton has exhibited throughout his cancer battle it seems fitting that he dreams of being a police officer one day. His aspirations and those of other children served by CCP are the focus of CCP’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month campaign to raise awareness regarding the support many families need to ensure their child receives the treatment that is critical to their future.
Throughout September CCP is encouraging community members across the Carolinas to get involved in the childhood cancer fight by sharing information with friends, family and colleagues about the challenges faced by families on the childhood cancer journey. Social media graphics that can be downloaded are available on the organization’s website, www.ChildrensCancerPartners.org. Visitors to the site can obtain information on volunteer opportunities and donate in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. They are encouraged to follow Children’s Cancer Partners on Facebook and Instagram and share the organization’s content using the hashtag #childrenscancerpartners. People also can connect with the organization by texting CCPCHILD to 51555.
“There are so many children like Peyton who have huge dreams for their future,” said Allen. “We want Carolinians to know that they can make a lifesaving difference for brave children and families in perhaps the most painful situations they will ever face. We are hopeful that Childhood Cancer Awareness Month will be the catalyst for them to get involved and help us assure families dealing with cancer that they do not have to travel this frightening journey alone!”
This article originally appeared in the Charleston Chronicle.