Diagnosis Challenge

Written by Michael Wiggins

This is Michael. Today is Sunday and the day of CureFest in Washington D.C., and so much to report on with respect to our journey to fight for kids with cancer and Children’s cancer Awareness Month. Our Ashley VanDerMark is in D.C. and you will hear more about this in the days to come.

Today, Melissa, Cannon and I are traveling home to Florida from San Francisco. We met a lot of great people this week, all invested and dedicated to helping us fund more research to end cancer in children. Thank you to Kristen and Buster Posey, Larry and Pam Baer and the entire San Francisco Giants organization, Dick Vitale, George Bodenheimer, the entire V Foundation, Jeff Berry of CAA, Dr. Mueller and her fantastic oncology and hematology group at Benioff Children's Hospital at UCSF, and so many more. I am so encouraged that progress is being made to right the wrong of allowing cancer in children to take a back seat to adult forms of cancer.

Those that have followed Cannon through his treatment know that he was diagnosed with a form of pediatric cancer called neuroblastoma. Did you know that neuroblastoma in children is diagnosed as Stage 4 (the worst news and the highest risk and farthest advanced)? And, Cannon’s case is not unique. It happens every day, in fact, day after day.

Why? Because often the diagnosis is finally made only after a long, trying period. Children may have a variety of symptoms such as irritability and low-grade fever that mimic common illnesses and viruses, or diseases such as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis that cause joint pain. Symptoms depend on where the tumor originates and if it has spread. For example, children with a tumor in the abdomen may have a swollen abdomen, constipation, vomiting, or diarrhea. A child with a tumor on the spine may stop crawling or walking, or may have weakness or paralysis. A tumor in the chest may cause breathing difficulties. A child whose disease has spread to bones may have black eyes, bone pain, bruises, fever, paleness, and may limp or stop crawling or walking. Cannon had low grade fevers for several months prior to diagnosis, but it was believed to be related to teething and new teeth cutting in. It was only when he started to limp that we took him to an orthopaedic physician who ordered an MRI that detected the metastasized mass behind his left knee.

And from there, the hell begins. Forty to fifty times a day it happens to parents around this country, and once every 2 minutes to a family in the world. “Your child has cancer”. And the statistics say 80% of children survive a cancer diagnosis. Not really… read my earlier posts on this subject. Doesn’t matter… 1 out of 5, or 1 out of 4; does it matter? Kids are suffering from the painful treatment and dying from both the harshness of the treatment and the disease itself, and it’s not getting much better. Help us create outrage to these truths.

These facts and the explanation provide the background for why we need more research to determine the cause of children’s cancer, and for early detection systems and tests to be made available to infants, toddlers and children. Please help Melissa and me, the CKc Foundation, all the parents of children with cancer and all those advocating for these kids --- help us increase awareness and action so that we can contribute to the efforts to improve therapies, and develop and target them specifically for children (instead of hand-me-down chemotherapy developed for adults), so that someday, someday cancer in children will be no more. Thank you.