Tiffany Asher, [email protected]
SWEETWATER COUNTY, WYOMING — Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM) and Blood Cancer Awareness Month are both recognized every September by cancer organizations around the world. During both the Rock Springs and Green River City Council meetings, Tiffany Marshall accepted the proclamations and shared some of her experience as a mother of a child diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system.
Marshall said, “I want to say that Childhood Cancer Awareness is something that people tend to not really want to talk about. It’s out there and it’s kind of looped into cancer in general, but it’s just not. There are only six new drugs that have been approved to address childhood cancer awareness in the last 30 years. Just to give a little insight on that, when my son was diagnosed he went through a round of chemo. In his first round of chemo, he went through ten different drugs in a month. When you think about how only six drugs have been approved for one specific version of infant leukemia and it took ten different drugs, it really is kind of eye-opening.”
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM)
According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, 15,780 kids between the ages of 0-18 are diagnosed with cancer or 1 in 285 kids before their 20th birthday each year. Globally, there are over 300,000 kids diagnosed with cancer each year. Of those who are diagnosed, 20% will not survive it. Cancer is the number one cause of death by disease for children in America.
In the proclamation, it explains that 80% of childhood cancer patients are diagnosed late and with metastatic disease. Two-thirds of childhood cancer patients will have chronic health conditions as a result of their treatment toxicity, with one-quarter being classified as severe to life-threatening.
Blood Cancer Awareness Month
Blood Cancer Awareness Month is a focused time for advocates and supporters to raise awareness both locally and nationally about the efforts to fight blood cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and Hodgkin’s disease.
The proclamation states that new cases of leukemia, lymphoma, or myeloma are expected to account for 9.4% of the estimated 1,958,310 new cancer cases that will be diagnosed in the US in 2023. Leukemias are the most common cancer in children and account for approximately 28% of all childhood cancers.
“Something I learned in my experience is that when you think of Leukemia, it’s Leukemia. You think it’s black and white, but it’s not. Infant and childhood Leukemia is different than adult Leukemia,” Marshall stated.
According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), this awareness is important because every 3 minutes, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with blood cancer and more than 1.3 million Americans are living with or in remission from a blood cancer. Although blood cancer is the 3rd leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., many people don’t know the impact of blood cancers. More than one-third of blood cancer patients still do not survive five years after diagnosis.
You Are Not Alone
Marshall empathized, “Take it one hour at a time, one day at a time. One thing I will always say is to stay off Google because you’re going to find exactly what you want to find. Via good or bad. You never know what is right or wrong. Stay off of Googling things and really rely on what your care team is telling you. It’s okay to cry and there is always support out there.”
The Sweetwater Regional Cancer Center holds a monthly caregiver support group. People can also reach out to either Chamber, which has resources to aid those suffering.
Marshall explained how amazing Sweetwater County was in supporting her family and other kids diagnosed with leukemia within the community. She also explained that there are resources available to help families in need through their hard times of battling childhood cancer.
Paxton’s Friends Fund
Marshall recalled how shocked she was when she learned of the number of kids from Sweetwater County who were in the Cancer and Transplant Unit at Primary Children’s Hospital at the same time as her son. Prior to her son’s diagnosis and experience, she didn’t realize that so many local kids were affected by cancer. “Even if it’s just one kiddo, that’s one too many, in my opinion,” stated Marshall.
When Paxton lost his battle and passed away, it hit many of those in the community hard and left a lot of people looking for ways to honor the little baby who touched so many people’s lives. The Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce created the Paxton’s Friends Fund to help other kids in the community fight cancer. “This was a really cool and humbling thing the Chamber did, wanting to honor Paxton now and for years to come,” Marshall said.
Paxton’s Friends Fund provides financial assistance to local families who are facing the hardships of having a sick kid while still having to balance their families, work, and everything else that life throws at them. This fund is to help families, whether it is for traveling, doctor appointments, hospital stays, treatments, and everything in between. She explained that the CEO of the Rock Springs Chamber, Rick Lee, really had a vision for this fund to support our local families who are in need. “He always says, we just want to make sure Paxton’s friends are taken care of and I love that,” Marshall said.
Paxton’s birthday is March 14 and, in his honor, the Marshall family and friends host a fundraising birthday party to raise money for Paxton’s Friends Fund. It includes bouncy houses, games, food, and cupcakes. This event has historically been held at the Young at Heart Community Center and is expected to be hosted there again in 2024.
Events like this are traumatic not just for the children suffering, but also for the parents who have to watch them go through this. Birthdays, family events, parents working and splitting up time, not to mention the medical cost burden can start to weigh a family down, with the high possibility of losing a child during this time. “One thing they don’t talk about is the toxicity of the long-term expenses,” Marshall said. She explained that these expenses can become high and can be well into the millions of dollars when looking at cancer treatments, bone marrow transplants, and all medication and treatments in between.
If you would like to donate or know of someone in need, please reach out to the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce at 307-362-3771.