Tyler and Millie are two of several children featured on the CURE website in a campaign called “CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time,” aimed at raising $275,000 for CURE.
CURE Childhood Cancer is an Atlanta based, non-profit organization that focuses on improving the care, quality of life, and – perhaps most importantly – the survival rates of children with cancer. CURE has been active since 1975. During that time, childhood cancer survival rates have increased from 10 percent to 80 percent.
Tyler Shead grew up in Bremen, Ga., and attended Haralson County High School. His journey began on Oct. 27, 2008, when he learned that what he expected was just a flare up of an old football injury turned out to be a diagnosis of Ewing’s Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer.
Tyler went through months of chemotherapy, 30 rounds of radiation, two artificial knees, a titanium femur, and a new hip. After almost a year of being off treatment, a routine scan found “the spot” that led to a relapse diagnosis and stem cell transplant accompanied by a high dose of chemotherapy to wipe out the cancer cells. Now, Tyler has routine scans and blood work every three months and takes oral chemotherapy pills everyday, all while studying communications in his first year at Kennesaw State University.
Tyler recalls how difficult it was to spend his high school years battling cancer and being in bed with mouth sores while everyone else was packing for spring break.
“Looking back, I can say that growing up is hard, growing up as a teen with cancer is harder,” said Tyler. “Even now, I am probably the most sweaty limping college kid you will ever meet. I take about 10 pills a day and have to defend my handicap parking tag quite often.”
“You have to grow up really fast when you are a child with cancer,” said Tyler’s mother, Maria Abercrombie. “You can tell that kids who have had cancer seem older than they are, more mature.”
Tyler hopes to see an end to childhood cancer and fights for both awareness and a cure.
“I believe I must help rally the troops so we will be the generation that participates in making miracles each and every day. I want to see more awareness about childhood cancer, and I want a cure,” he said. “I hope to be a voice for all of the children I see at the clinic each week, for all of the parents who have buried their children from this dreaded disease, and for all of the teens still struggling to find their way. I believe there are no limits to God’s miracles but myself and many others must be active participates in the process.”
Tyler is working to raise money to fight back. Each family participating in the website campaign will attempt to raise a minimum of $1,000. The funds raised will be directed toward CURE’s 2012-13 research initiative: 13 specific research projects aimed at improving survival for difficult-to-cure pediatric cancers.
Fellow cancer survivor Millie Baldwin, 3, is growing up in neighboring Paulding County. Her battle began on Aug. 5, 2011, when her mother noticed a knot on her stomach after a night of vomiting and stomachaches. She was taken to the emergency room at Scottish Rite, where she had several tests done and reported a blood pressure of 159/119, so high the doctors thought the machine must be broken.
The tests found a large tumor on her left kidney that was cancerous. Doctors believed it to be a Wilms tumor, measuring the size of a grapefruit and weighing two pounds. While the cancer had avoided her lymph nodes, there was some evidence of cancer in Millie’s abdomen. On Aug. 17, 2011, she was diagnosed with a form of cancer called Clear Cell Sarcoma of the Kidney, stage III, which only affects 20 people in the United States per year.
Millie has undergone seven months of chemotherapy and radiation, but has been off treatment since February. She has scans of her bones every three months, CT scans of her chest and abdomen, MRIs of her brain, and kidney scans. So far, all scans have come back clean.
Millie’s mother, April Baldwin took a break from her vacation, provided by Hilton Head Heroes, an organization that provides vacations to families affected by childhood cancer, to give advice to parents who are beginning their journey with childhood cancer.
“As a parent, it is very emotionally difficult to get through,” says Baldwin. “One day, your child is just another kid, then the next they’re in a hospital being poked and prodded. You just have to take it one day at a time and stay positive. I know God has plans for Millie.”
To learn more about Millie’s story, go to her blog at www.milliesmiracle.com.
Both Tyler and Millie will continue to raise money for CURE Childhood Cancer. To donate to their cause and read more about their individual stories and the stories of many other children with cancer, visit www.curechildhoodcancer.org.