Each year, approximately 13,500 children will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States in 2015. As childhood cancer rates continue to rise from past decades, the need for pediatric cancer research and treatment is immediate. Since 2008, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer has funded nearly 6 DOZEN childhood cancer research grants, leading to two dozen promising new treatments now in clinical trial, available TODAY to children fighting cancer!
Dr. Peter Zage, today’s feature for Fact Friday, is one of the researchers awarded grant funding from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer in 2014. Dr. Zage is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics Hematology-Oncology Section at Baylor College of Medicine. He is especially focused on the efficacy of novel therapies for children with neuroblastoma, retinoblastoma, and other childhood solid tumors.
Here’s what he has to say about the support from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer:
To learn more about all the grants from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, take a peek at Our Impact page. And don’t forget to join us every Friday as we highlight other Good Cookie doctors who are making a difference in the fight against childhood cancer.
Did you know that only 4% of funding for cancer research from the federal government goes to children? With pediatric cancer being the #1 disease killer of kids in the US, more money must go to research for children. . .which is 100% the reason Cookies for Kids’ Cancer exists.
This week, for our Fact Friday post, we are pleased to introduce you to Dr. Stephen Gottschalk, Professor and Director of the Basic & Translational Research Division of Texas Children’s Cancer Center. Dr. Gottschalk is a member of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy (CAGT) and the Brain Tumor Research Program with clinical interests in Bone Marrow Transplantation, Cell and Gene Therapy, and Cancer Immunotherapy.
Dr. Gottschalk has received multiple grants from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, with the most recent being part of our biggest year of grants to date – 2014. Here’s what he has to say about the support from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer:
With your support, the grants provided to doctors like Dr. Gottschalk are truly making a difference in providing more effective, less toxic treatments for childhood cancer. To learn more about all the grants from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, take a peek at Our Impact page. And don’t forget to join us every Friday as we highlight other Good Cookie doctors who are making a difference in the fight against childhood cancer.
It’s Fact Friday – the series we plan to run throughout the summer to share the facts of childhood cancer. Some weeks will feature information about the disease or stories about the need for funding. Other weeks, we will share quotes from doctors who have received grants thanks to your generous support.
This week, please meet Dr. Nai-Kong Cheung, Head of the Neuroblastoma Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Cheung is a pediatric oncologist who specializes in immunologic approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric cancers. His main focus is the treatment of neuroblastoma, a tumor that arises from primitive cells of the sympathetic nervous system and that primarily affects young children. Dr. Cheung has received grants from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer many times over, including funds raised from the 96,000 cookies sold in 2007 back when Cookies for Kids’ Cancer was launched. The funds from that first Good Cookie effort helped turn his research into a treatment that has been available to patients since August 2011.
Dr. Cheung’s work brings to life our mission – to fund new, improved, less toxic therapies for childhood cancer. Join us every Friday for these weekly insights. . .and a bit of inspiration too as you learn how your donations are making a difference in the fight against childhood cancer.
My friend Rachel Graff Kirkham asked me to write a guest post for her blog for Mother’s Day. To be honest, I didn’t want to do it. I haven’t written a blog post since my snuggle bunny died. It’s too hard. It’s too scary. My muse and the whole reason why I started writing in the first place is no longer here. I have been afraid to trust my feelings and share my thoughts. I have been afraid that I didn’t have anything to say that anyone would want to read. I have been afraid that now that I’ve suffered the greatest loss any mommy can suffer, anything I write would be a downer and turn people away, not inspire them to get involved. When Liam was here, the Prince Liam the Brave blog served as a way to update people on his battle against cancer. His indomitable spirit was so inspiring. His face was irresistibly cute. His squeaky voice stopped people in their tracks. His loss is still very present and raw for me. In fact, just writing these words about him makes my heart swell with love and sorrow. He was just shy of his 7th birthday when he died. His birthday was close enough that he was already making plans for how he wanted to celebrate. His birthday is coming up in a few days on May 13th. He would be 11. I wonder what he’d be like as an 11 year old. But I digressed…a friend asked me to help her out and, well, as anyone who knows me knows….I have a hard time saying no. So, I said I’d try to come up with something for her. And then I started counting sheep because I couldn’t sleep. What did I get myself into? What if I couldn’t find any words to say? What if nothing I wrote made sense to anyone other than me, the mommy with the broken heart? What if having a broken heart meant anything I had to say would be tainted? I don’t know if I do have anything to say, but I’m giving it a shot.
I don’t know if this is “good” or something anyone will want to read. But it’s from my heart to yours on Mother’s Day.
XO x Million, Gretchen
On May 13th, 2004 I became a mother. Liam was born 5 weeks early, on a Thursday, three days before Mother’s Day. From the moment I saw him, I knew what the true meaning of life was about and also that life as I knew it would never be the same. Life was about someone else. Life was about giving life. Life was about taking care of my baby boy with a button nose and face so cute that it nearly brought me to tears every time I looked at him. Life was about loving with every fiber of my being.
Liam spent about 10 days in the NICU, and I spent those days sitting next to his incubator talking to him, stroking his body to make sure he could feel his mommy touching him and thinking about his future and everything it had to hold. That first Mother’s Day feels like a lifetime ago. That first Mother’s Day feels like yesterday. That first Mother’s Day, when I was less than a week into motherhood, I knew my job was to protect my sweet baby boy.
When Liam was diagnosed with stage IV cancer less than three years later – on February 26th, 2007 – being a mommy took on a new meaning. I was now fighting for my child’s life. Fighting for my child’s life. How did that happen? How did my sunny, funny sweet baby boy have the very disease that claims the lives of more children than any other? I breastfed him for a year. I ate the right foods. I didn’t do any of the things people associate with cancer from getting sunburns to smoking. I did everything I was supposed to do and didn’t cut corners on anything. But here I was in a place I never in a million years could have dreamed – fighting for the life of my son, my only son and his sister Ella’s only sibling, against a disease I couldn’t see and hadn’t detected other than a mother’s gut intuition that something wasn’t quite right with my picky eater.
The role of being a mother became one of lioness, protector and advocate.
The Mother’s Days we marked during his battle with cancer were vibrantly poignant. Liam’s birthday and Mother’s Day are always close to each other. The day of Liam’s birthday, the reason I became a mommy, usually falls within days of the day on which moms are celebrated. Each Mother’s Day during his battle took on a whole new meaning. Instead of a day that celebrated me as “the mom,” I thought about how lucky I was to even be a mommy. It wasn’t about me, but about my children and the gift they gave me. And motherhood is a gift of and for the heart and soul.
And then Liam’s battle was over. And the world became very dark.
My snuggle bunny was gone. Forever.
And I didn’t understand why I was a mother.
I couldn’t even do the most basic thing I’m supposed to do as a mother: protect my child.
It was 2011. The year that Liam’s birthday and Mother’s Day fell on the same day.
It was so cruel. Or was it?
Maybe it was a sign to keep going in honor of my snuggle bunny.
My daughter Ella has given me the gift of experiencing motherhood in a completely different way than I ever could have imagined. In her gentle wisdom that no child her age should have, Ella taught me to learn to love life through a new lens and live with loss. We wade through the landscape of loss and are there for each other in a very special way.
I often wonder if it would have been better to have not become a mother in order to protect myself from the searing pain I feel each morning when I wake up and realize it’s not a bad dream – Liam really isn’t here. But with that pain comes the privilege of always being Liam’s and Ella’s mommy. And it’s the gift of being their mommy that has given me the strength and conviction to do everything I can to help other mommies love their snuggle bunnies by doing everything I possibly can to battle the cowardly foe that preys on our children.
Being a mother gave me a gift of love so great that I want to move mountains. I am so grateful to have been given that gift first by Liam and then Ella. Being a mother for me means I will live the rest of my life trying to do anything and everything I can to help other mothers by funding research into treatments that can give children hope. I have to. It’s what Liam would want me to do. And when I finally see him again, I know it’s the very first question he’ll have for me after we hug and kiss and kiss and hug and hug and kiss…. “Mommy, did you make it better for others?”
Liam, thank you for giving me the gift of motherhood. Because of you, every day is Mother’s Day.
Mommy loves you.
Mommy misses you, Snuggle Bunny. Thank you for giving me the greatest gift life has to offer.
Since 2011, select Denny’s in Arizona and New York have held an annual month-long campaign to raise funds for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. This year we are pleased to welcome Denny’s stores back! Throughout the month of July, nearly 100 stores in 13 states are joining the cause and hosting events to help children battling cancer!
Below is a complete list of all Denny’s stores participating in the June campaign.
In exchange for a donation of their choice, customers will be offered paper cookies, where they can write their name or personal message. The cookie will then be added to the collection displayed throughout the restaurant. Every dollar raised will go to research for childhood cancer, the number one disease killer of children in the U.S.
To date, the AZ and NY Denny’s have raised $250,000 for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. This year, with the increased support, customers could help more than DOUBLE that total amount in July alone! Stop by a participating Denny’s near you for a bite and help make a difference for children fighting cancer.
|Amherst||3920 Maple Rd.|
|Auburn||176 Grant Ave.|
|Batavia||364 W. Main St.|
|Buffalo||2215 Delaware Ave.|
|Buffalo||4445 Main St.|
|Camillus||5300 W. Genesee St.|
|Canandaigua||160 Eastern Blvd.|
|Cheektowaga||4610 Genesee St.|
|Cicero||7873 Brewerton Rd|
|Corfu||8484 Allegheny Rd|
|Depew||4757 Transit Rd|
|Fairport||4 Perinton Hills Mall|
|Fredonia||10390 Bennett Rd|
|Geneseo||4240 Lakeville Rd|
|Geneva||813 Canandaigua Rd|
|Hamburg||5092 Camp Rd|
|Horseheads||950 Chemung St|
|Lockport||5699 Transit Rd|
|Niagara Falls||8020 Niagara Falls|
|North Syracuse||201 Lawrence Rd|
|Orchard Park||3165 Southwestern Blvd.|
|Painted Post||118 Victory Hwy|
|Rochester||2890 W Ridge Rd|
|Rochester||911 Jefferson Rd|
|Syracuse||6591 Thompson Rd|
|Syracuse||103 Elwood Davis Rd|
|Syracuse||3414 Erie Blvd.|
|Victor||7503 Main Street Fisher|
|Watertown||1142 Arsenal St|
|West Seneca||1881 Ridge Rd|
Over the past eight years, I have known profound loss—family members with cancer, multiple miscarriages, and then, just a few months after giving birth to my son, Sam, the stunning news that I carry the BRCA2 gene mutation (the “breast cancer gene”), which meant that it was highly likely I would develop aggressive breast and/or ovarian cancer. The positive test results took my breath away, like a punch in the gut. My Aunt Laura died from ovarian cancer when she was just 42, leaving my 9- and 3-year-old cousins motherless. After everything I went through to have Sam, I couldn’t bear the thought of us being separated like that.
It’s not easy to be a new mother in your 30s and consider a bilateral mastectomy and hysterectomy to avoid cancers you don’t have, but I had to face it. There was no way I was going to let cancer take me from my son without a fight. I had no choice. So I had both surgeries, and it was worth it if I get to watch Sam grow up, get married, and give me grandkids to spoil.
But what if those happy years that I envision with Sam were taken from me because he got cancer? That question ran on an endless loop in my head last October, when my cousin Emily’s 1-year-old daughter, Emma, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML5a); she almost died before the doctors figured out what was wrong. Then in February, my high school friend Andy found out that his 4-year-old son, Ben, had stage IV glioblastoma, an incredibly aggressive brain tumor. (You may have heard of Ben Sauer–his mother, Mindy, shares his story and their family’s experience with cancer through an incredibly moving blog, Blue4Ben.com.)
Despite all I’d been through during those terribly difficult years, nothing hit me harder than the suffering of these two young children.
I couldn’t handle it. I felt such grief, such pain and sympathy for Emma and Ben, their parents and families. And I couldn’t stop thinking about how my feelings were a mere fraction of what they were feeling. The horrors of watching a beloved child suffer from cancer and its harsh treatments, and not being able to do anything about it. What could be worse?
When I realized that I actually could do something, it made all the difference. I could do exactly what Gretchen Holt Witt did when her son, Liam, was sick – host a bake sale – and in a very real way help kids like Ben and Emma. For the first time in months, I felt a glimmer of hope. Crying and grieving and worrying couldn’t make Emma or Ben better, and it couldn’t bring Liam back. It couldn’t take away their parents’ pain either, but dammit, I could bake cookies! And I could ask everyone I knew to bake even more cookies, donate money, or help however they could. So, I began planning my first Cookies for Kids’ Cancer bake sale.
As I worked on the sale, I learned about the dire underfunding of pediatric cancer research—just 3 cents of every dollar for cancer research in the U.S. goes to funding treatments for children?! How can that be? There are far too many mommies and daddies, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins out there who love a child with cancer for that statistic to be true. Clearly, people just don’t know, which means that we’ve all got to do our part to spread the word. For Emma Shaffer. For Ben Sauer. For every single boy and girl who deserves to grow up, get married, and give their parents grandkids to spoil.
I’m happy and relieved that Emma endured her chemo and has been cancer-free for three months now; she turned two on April 18th and is back home with Emily and Mike. But little Ben died on May 13th (Liam’s birthday), and Andy and Mindy have to live with that loss every day.
The only thing that has been able to pull me out of my sadness and worry for the Sauers has been working to make my first Cookies for Kids’ Cancer bake sale a success. We’ve already raised more than $4,500, and it’s inspiring to see how the desire to help is contagious. It’s like wildfire – once people hear about Emma and Ben, and the unjust and unequal funding for pediatric cancer research, they want to join the fight. So even though I hope we raise tons of money to help fund new treatments, it’s also just as important that we spread the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer message so others will be moved to help, too.
The worst thing we can do is nothing. The best thing we can do is channel our loss into something positive — a bake sale, a 5K race, a penny drive — that will help these kids and give their families hope. That will make all the difference!
Pediatric cancer myths present enormous barriers to researchers receiving the funding they need. Over the next week, help us bust these myths. Go social using the hashtags #KidsCancerMyths and #WorldCancerDay and get others involved in the conversation.
MYTH: Pediatric cancer is rare and doesn’t impact many people.
FACT: Cancer is the #1 cause of death by disease of children in the U.S. – More than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS combined.
On any given day, there are 40,000 children in the U.S. alone actively battling cancer. And incidence rates are rising. As of now, one in 300 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer before they are 20-years-old.
Nick and Zach, two teens in California, can tell you firsthand that pediatric cancers are not as rare as is often thought. Read their inspiring story.
While the first weeks of summer fly by with vacations, camps and days at the pool, there comes a point where activities to keep the kids entertained aren’t easy to find. But with these five ways to kick summer boredom, your family can keep busy and give back at the same time.
The opportunities for summer treats are endless. Like these easy-to-make watermelon “cookies,” sure to be a hit at any bake sale. Get more summer recipe ideas by following Cookies for Kids’ Cancer on Pinterest.
Planning a Cookies for Kids’ Cancer fundraiser with a Girl Scout troop is a great way for the group to have fun, bond and get involved with the community.
Additionally, any Girl Scout troop that holds a bake sale or other fundraising event will receive special Cookies for Kids’ Cancer patches for their support.
Not only will the kids enjoy decorating signs and posters, but they’ll have fun in the water, all while raising much-needed funds for pediatric cancer research.
Follow the lead of these Good Cookies in the Hamptons, who just held their FOURTH annual 4th of July bake sale for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Independence Day may be over, but Labor Day will be here before you know it.
National Kids’ Day and Founders’ Day are in August as well. Think about some holidays or occasions coming up this summer and celebrate by starting a new Good Cookie tradition.
Good Cookies host events in all shapes and sizes, and no effort is too small to make a difference. If you find yourself with time to spare or could use something already planned to raise funds, take advantage of the opportunity.
Many businesses offer discounted prices for charity fundraisers, and will even donate items for your event. Organize a percentage night at a local burger hang-out or ice cream shop. Turn a birthday party at the bowling alley into fundraiser. Every dollar counts.
Liam Witt would have turned 9 today. In honor of his birthday, his mom Gretchen has written a special letter to all the Good Cookies who help us do what Liam would have done: fight to make things better for kids everywhere.
A few days ago I went to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the place where my son Liam was treated for Neuroblastoma…and the place where he took his last breath.
It’s as hard as it is easy for me to go there. I know it inside and out. I know where things are. I know the people. I know the routines. I know the smells. I know how to read the looks on the faces I see…some have fear, some have joy, some determination and some are just lost. I know them all, because at one time or another I had one of those looks on my face, which I always tried to hide from Liam so that all he saw was love.
I was at the hospital delivering favorite snacks to a shy, 12-year old boy from Oklahoma who has been in the hospital getting ready for a bone marrow transplant, and nail polish remover and cotton swabs to his mom. Chemo makes everything taste weird, so finding foods that a child wants to eat as they try to figure out what tastes good is a never-ending process. One day one thing tastes good, the next it doesn’t. Parents frantically search for anything that tastes good…anything…just to get precious calories into their child. It was a struggle Liam’s dad and I dealt with almost every day.
The family I was visiting came to NYC for routine scans as follow up to being treated for Neuroblastoma. Their son successfully battled back from his initial diagnosis, and then subsequent relapses, which, unfortunately, is pretty common in the world of nasty Neuroblastoma. It’s one of those types of cancers that likes to come back, again and again.
Their soft-spoken son had been cancer-free for a few years when, during the scans, they found that he had developed what’s known as “secondary Leukemia,” a type of cancer caused by the toxic chemotherapy he received for his initial diagnosis. Isn’t that the ultimate irony – the drugs used to treat his cancer caused another type of cancer, which is only treatable with a bone marrow transplant. This is the type of cancer Robin Roberts from Good Morning America recently battled.
They had packed enough clothes for a 3-day trip for those scans, but discovered they’re now going to be in NYC for 5 months. He was admitted immediately to start the rigorous process of a stem cell transplant.
Hospital time drags on….it’s awful and sucks the life out of you. 5 minutes can seem like 5 hours as you wait and wait and wait. When I dropped off the supplies, the boy’s mother was so grateful. It was the first time we were meeting, and yet we instantly knew each other. She wanted to sit in the small kitchen area on the pediatric floor designated for families and talk. I sat in the very same orange chair Liam sat in so many times. She told me she has to leave to go back to Oklahoma on Saturday for two weeks to complete nursing school. If she doesn’t go back now, she’ll need to start nursing school all over again. She is switching spots with her husband, who had just arrived to relieve her. They also have a 14-year old son who is back in Oklahoma. The emotional toll cancer treatment has on a family is one that is so hard and yet very rarely told.
While I was walking up to the pediatric floor, I walked through Nuclear Medicine and had a hug fest with the head of the department, the assistant manager, and several of the technicians. Several had come to Liam’s memorial service. We all cried together and told stories of Liam playing his blue guitar in the hallway with a small, empty box of Cheerios in front of him ready to take donations.
We reminisced how he would serve water to everyone in the waiting room, anxiously awaiting their name to be called out to go to a scanning machine that would reveal the state of their cancer. No one ever said no to Liam’s hospitality. I couldn’t believe how vivid their stories were of him. We all miss him and everyone marveled at how Liam’s sister, Ella, has grown so big.
And then I stopped in to radiology. It was a radiologist who found Liam’s first relapse, which was so small it didn’t appear on the sensitive nuclear medicine scan but showed up on a CT scan. We all thought it was nothing. It turned out it was something.
I saw people from Liam’s beloved cafeteria, where he was heralded as the next great chef. They would give him a chef’s hat and apron and take him into the kitchen to see how French Fries were made. I think the reason so many people were touched by Liam is because he took a genuine interest in them, and in what they were doing. And by doing so, showed how much he cared. It was beautiful to watch.
When I was leaving, I ran into Dr. Kim Kramer, who was one of Liam’s doctors on the Neuroblastoma team, and is now focusing her efforts on brain cancers. We hugged. We remembered. She told me that the project funded by a $100,000 grant recently provided by Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is now a treatment children are receiving for a horribly aggressive type of pediatric brain cancer called DIPG. It was a project that was considered risky but when given the choice between an option and no option, any option seems like a good option. And in the world of pediatric cancer which claims the lives of more children than any other disease, so many times you just want to know there is an option.
The fourth child just received the treatment and so far, all children are doing well. Can you believe that? Seriously, think about it…the money YOU raised helped fund this treatment that kids are receiving TODAY; Kids who, without this treatment, have very few if any options.
For your past efforts and your current efforts, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Words alone can’t express our gratitude. We promise you, your efforts are working and they are making a difference in the lives of children battling today and will help those diagnosed tomorrow. And we can’t tell you how grateful we are that you continue to be part of this journey.
Thank you for Loving Like our Sweet Liam who would be celebrating his 9th birthday today.
To our sweet boy, we will continue to do what you would want us to do and make it better for others. As you taught us, “If not now, when?”
Happy Birthday. We love you.
Mommy, Daddy and Ella