Children's Health

Initiative to Help Families Coping With Childhood Cancer During Pandemic

NBCUniversal, Inc.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The families in the fight for their lives are now battling even more with the pandemic.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14 (after accidents). About 1,190 children under the age of 15 are expected to die from cancer in 2020.

About 11,050 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2020. Childhood cancer rates have been rising slightly for the past few decades.

Because of major treatment advances in recent decades, 84% of children with cancer now survive 5 years or more. Overall, this is a huge increase since the mid-1970s, when the 5-year survival rate was about 58%.

Caroline, 8, is one of those brave children who battled cancer herself. She was diagnosed with Pre-B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on October 26, 2016. It was just three days after her 5th birthday.

“It was devastating,” Melissa Olaleye, Caroline’s mother. “It was worse than devastating, to hear that news. When you hear the words, ‘your daughter has cancer,’ it’s an immediate impact.”

Caroline’s last treatment was January 19, 2019, so the family is now waiting for their checkup next January, hoping all the scans are clear.

“The two-year mark is a big deal. When you make it to the two-year anniversary it’s a huge milestone. The chances of relapse diminish significantly. They are classified as clinically cured then,” Olaleye said.

The pandemic compounds things for not just the Olaleyes, but families currently in the middle of the fight at the hospital. Isolation is a big factor with children who are immunocompromised. 

“I can’t thank the people at Children’s Health enough for everything they did for us. Without them, I don’t know how we would have gotten to this point. I remember one day a nurse just praying with me. It all meant so much,” Olaleye said.

With that, Children’s Health wants to remind everyone about the hardships these families are going through.

Currently, they are promoting a special initiative to help families just like the Olaleye’s who depend on the hospital for not just medical treatment, but emotional support. The initiative is chaired by PGA of America’s Darrell Crall and the Ticket’s Donovan Lewis with auction items including Ryder Cup tickets and a trip to visit Troy Aikman in the booth during a Dallas Cowboys home game.

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