Brain. Cancer. These two words explained the mysterious headaches that came out of the blue and sidelined my athletic 8-year-old in less than a week. Max was diagnosed at Seattle Children’s on Feb. 9, 2004, after a scan revealed a golf ball-sized tumor inside his head.
The ground opened up and swallowed me. The terror that my son might die and the helplessness of not being able to fix it were almost unbearable.
The odds were not in Max’s favor. The grueling treatment he underwent was part of a research study funded by families who wanted other children to have better options than were available to their own kids. The treatment studied – which I believe saved Max’s life – became the standard of care for children with high-risk brain cancer.
I will never know who stepped forward to give Max a better shot at survival, but I do know that I owe my son’s life to the power of their investment. Shortly after he finished treatment, I started raising money for brain tumor research to pay forward this priceless gift.
I admit my ambition is not entirely altruistic. I am haunted every day by the memory of Max’s friends at Seattle Children’s who were not as lucky. I still know many of their families – good people who will always have an empty seat at the dinner table and gaping holes in their hearts.
Brain. Cancer. Until these two words no longer strike terror in the hearts of parents, I will continue fundraising to bring better treatments to all the children who have yet to be diagnosed.
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