Taking the Next Steps

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By Val Marshall

Val Marshall's cancer journey began in May 2009 when her son Addison was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. A visit to the family doctor for what they thought was a simple high school football injury turned out to be so much more.

Inspired by her son's strength and hope, Val strives to be a voice to help connect other parents on this journey. Her series shares insight into her life as a mom of a typical teenager who just happens to be fighting leukemia.

Addison Marshall Crush Cancer

Addie finished hospital chemotherapy last week but refused to ring the bell to signify completion of this treatment, as he doesn't want to jinx the process. However, he reluctantly relented to have a picture taken with his nurses and teachers.

I wrapped them all up in 21 feet of his Beads of Courage strand. It symbolizes the journey that begins with a single bead with the child's first name and grows as the months of treatment saunter by. Yes, saunter is the politically correct term for walking with cancer.

Big steps
Next week begins a new phase of treatment called proton radiation. How fortunate that we live in Houston, as it is one of only three places in the world for pencil beam radiation. Proton is a "safer" form of radiation because it targets the malignancy and spares the healthy tissue.

After proton radiation, the nail-biting maintenance will commence. To further escalate life like a cat on a tin roof in August, Addie will begin petitioning his oncologist to remove his port so he can play football..I can't imagine why he would choose to get hit more than the pounding of the last two years, but that's why I have been relegated to last string. I can't say I will ever understand teenagers or males. They are not of my species!

Step up to take action
Now for the favor I need to ask. Since my trip to lobby Congress in March, there has been a wonderful shift in leadership for children's cancer research. The Senate is working to pass the Pryce Walker Bill, which would fund additional dollars for research desperately needed in the pediatric arena. This link will take you to a page on the Cure Search for Children's Cancer website.

On the page you can fill out the form to sign and send a letter supporting these heroic senators, who are trying to create a bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill to fight cancer in our youngest and most vulnerable. They do ask for your email and address, but its information your senator already has anyway. The cutoff date is June 8, which is next Wednesday.

There are 46 children in the US are diagnosed daily with cancer, yet only one new drug has been developed for them in more than 20 years. I'm frequently asked, "How can I help the kids at MD Anderson?" Doing this will take less than a minute, and it's one of the greatest gifts you can give these children.

When I was in Washington the Hill was very empathetic, yet they need our communication as proof that this is the emergency that hyper-cancer moms like me have conveyed. Gee, where do my kids get off thinking I am controlling!

Addie turns 18 years old this summer and I have promised him that his life is priceless, and I take that to heart. With my last breath I will work for every child and family, as research holds the only cure.

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