Pediatric Cancer and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

The Catie’s Wish Foundation has adopted as its mission to eradicate pediatric cancer through prayer and research.  Pediatric cancer including Leukemia touches approximately ten thousand new children in the United States each year.  Of that number, approximately two thousand are cancers of the brain and central nervous system grouped under the heading of Brain Cancer.  Stated another way, one out of every three hundred and thirty children will battle cancer whereas one out of every six adults will be diagnosed with cancer of some type.

Despite the rarity of pediatric cancer, and the progress that has been made to battle it, it remains the second leading cause of death in children and adolescents in the United States.

“Although we do not know why one person gets brain cancer while another does not, we know it is not caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy, watching television, drinking diet sodas or not eating enough vegetables. In general, brain tumors arise when a single cell makes a mistake.” (Children’s Hospital of Boston website)

Catie faced a particularly difficult and rare form of brain cancer.  To get an idea of just how rare, less than two percent of all brain cancers are of the type that Catie fought.  ATRTs (atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumors) or “a terribly rare tumor” as Catie called it, are usually found in children under three years of age and almost always in found in the brain.  Catie’s tumor, at the base of her spinal column, was one of only thirteen reported cases in the last twenty years.  Most research studies need a minimum of two hundred cases to be accepted as a potential therapy.  Perhaps fifty to one hundred years would have passed before enough cases were reported and a therapy could have been found that could have cured Catie.  Catie did not have that kind of time, nor would she have wished her disease on even one other child even if it meant her survival.  What she did wish is that we fight all pediatric cancer and that we do it through a unique combination of prayer and research.

The research portion of the fight is already being successfully battled at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  In the forty seven years since it was founded, tremendous strides have been made to ensure that “no child should die in the dawn of life.” (Danny Thomas, founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital)  Since St. Jude opened its doors in nineteen hundred and sixty two, ALL, the most common form of Leukemia has seen its survival rate jump from four percent to ninety four percent, saving countless thousands of our children.  And because St. Jude freely shares their research with all doctors and researchers around the world, the strides made at St. Jude help children everywhere.  Further elevating St. Jude to the primary site for cancer treatment is its policy that no child be turned away because of a family’s inability to pay for treatment.

Many children’s hospitals are good; only one can be the best.  We believe that St. Jude is the best and that is why the Catie’s Wish Foundation continues to support St. Jude.  Catie believed in the work and the people at St. Jude so much that one of her last actions before she died was to applaud our efforts to support the hospital and ask us to continue to do so in her memory.  Tremendous wisdom from a wonderful seven-year old.

Like many who read this, we had no idea how wonderful the people and facilities are at St. Jude until Catie needed their care.  It is truly a one of a kind operation.  The level of care, support, and dedication sets St. Jude apart, and although we would have rather learned about how wonderful St. Jude is without Catie’s sacrifice, we are compelled to pass along the information.

The prayer portion is the other exciting part of the fight to eradicate pediatric cancer.  St. Jude itself was founded because of God’s answer to a prayer from Danny Thomas, then a struggling actor with a child on the way. Donating his last few dollars to a collection box in a Chicago church, he asked God to bless his career and promised in return to use any fame and success to give something back.  Out of that promise sprung the seeds of an idea that has become St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  There is even a pavilion on the grounds of the Hospital that captures the history and memorializes the prayerful efforts of the many who followed Danny Thomas’ example and made a difference in the lives of thousands of children from around the world.

Here at the Catie’s Wish Foundation, we believe in the power of prayer to not only guide the life-saving research and treatment that is being conducted, but to make up the difference when that treatment falls short. Again, Catie led by example and calls upon us to follow her actions and desires.  During her treatment and more importantly after her treatment was suspended, Catie implored us to pray for the other children battling cancer and for the health care professionals charged with their care.  She now accepts and carries our prayers to heaven and intercedes on behalf of all those who lift up the children and families faced with the specter of pediatric cancer.

Catie understood that she was not going to be cured of her disease yet she had the selflessness and desire to make a difference in the life of the next child and family.  In her honor and her memory, the Catie’s Wish Foundation takes up the challenge left to us by Catie and accepts the challenge of our mission statement to eradicate pediatric cancer through prayer and research.

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