This is Michael. This morning I had a long flight back to Orlando from Phoenix, and I wanted to take a moment to look back over the last week.
Last year, a very gracious lady in Scottsdale, Arizona, Whitney Brittain, contacted Melissa and me to let us know that she was following Cannon's progress and was moved by his journey and fight against neuroblastoma. Whitney told us that she belonged to a group in Phoenix that supported the Steele Children's Research Center at the University of Arizona. She went on to let us know that she had learned so much from Cannon and us about the harsh treatment of children with cancer, the lack of funding for research for pediatric cancer vs. the adult cancer world, and the absolute need to hurry along and fasttrack new therapy developments for pediatric cancer.
Whitney wanted us to know that she told and presented Cannon's story and our facts to her organization (PANDA --- People Acting Now Discover Answers), and one night, when Melissa and I were going through a particularly rough period of treatment for Cannon with pain, sickness, lowered oxygen intakes and him in the ICU, Whitney emailed us to let us know that the Phoenix Women's Board had selected pediatric cancer for this year's fundraising effort for the Research Center. Specifically, thanks to Whitney and others, the year was dedicated to raising private funds for PANDA's Children’s Anti-Tumor Immunity Program.
The PANDA Children’s Anti-Tumor Immunity Program, integrated within the Steele Children’s Research Center, will identify new generation anti-cancer drugs with the ability to contain the cancer, develop natural immunity to the cells and reduce the emergence of tumor cell clones. It will then attempt to translate the most promising of these approaches to the children’s bedside.
The objective is to create an interface between traditional cancer chemotherapies and immune-based strategies, all the while focusing on pediatric cancer patients. The goal of the program is primary tumor elimination, prevention of cancer metastasis and improved survival for our kids --- and, ultimately, allowing immunotherapy (use of the body's own immune system to fight, ward off and kill cancer cells that want to grow in our kids) to become a cure for all of the forms of pediatric cancer.
On Saturday, I attended the 16th annual PANDA “Children Helping Children” Fashion Show and Luncheon at the Phoenician Hotel in Scottsdale. Wow... I was honored to be hosted by Whitney and her husband, Dr. Brad Brittain, and met so many wonderful people, all giving up their day and writing big checks for our kids with cancer --- to stop it, prevent it, and cure it. Did they give. You bet. $1 million dollars' worth. No typo --- over $1 million dollars was raised for the Steele Children's Research Center. Blown away and thankful for the fight. Thank you, Whitney and Brad. Thank you.
I must tell a short story of something else that happened in Phoenix this weekend. I wanted to attend morning Mass on Friday and looked online for a church close to where I was staying in Tempe. I found several close by, but for some reason I was drawn to one on the screen named Holy Spirit. It was a few more miles away from my hotel than the others. I drove to Holy Spirit and walked in for the early morning Mass. When the priest came out, he said "This morning, the mass is dedicated and being said to finding a cure for cancers". At that moment, I knew why I had been pulled and drove to Holy Spirit and why I was in Phoenix.
During the PANDA event Saturday, a video interview was shown on the big screen. The interview was of an Arizona mom who had lost her daughter, Dana, just this January to a form of pediatric cancer. She told the story of the misery and pain that Dana endured, but mostly about her wonderful spirit. Then she said, in tears, "...when she died, I wasn't done being a mother". A life moment.
This is why we fight for kids with cancer, and why Melissa and I will never give in or give up or sugarcoat what cancer does to children, their siblings and their families. We always like to ask for prayers for our kids with cancer AND their family, and this is why.
Last, a big "Thank You" to all that came last Sunday to our Block Party (is my wife amazing or what?) and especially to our sponsors and businesses and individuals who volunteered time from their families to help us in this fight. One day we will see less suffering in our children from cancer, and it will be because of the efforts made last Sunday at the Block Party and this past Saturday in Phoenix. Thank you.