This is a reality for the 182 children and families in Cobb and 400-plus statewide who were diagnosed with and treated for cancer in 2012. The good news is, since the 1950s, overall survival rates for children battling cancer has risen from less than 10 percent to almost 80 percent.
“In any given year, 2,400 children in Georgia are undergoing treatment for cancer,” said Kristin Connor, executive director of the CURE Childhood Cancer Foundation.
The nonprofit, which was founded in 1975 by an Emory University oncologist, aids pediatric cancer patients in Georgia and their families, and supports pediatric cancer research. This year, CURE is funding $2.5 million in research spanning 13 major studies.
“Research is the only way to a cure,” Connor said. “Forty years ago, a diagnosis of childhood cancer was a virtual death sentence. Now, because of research, nearly 80 percent survive.”
Local children fight the battle
Two of those elementary-aged students now battling cancer are 4-year-old Luke Cornille of Kennesaw and 7-year-old Lake Bozeman of Marietta. Luke was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia and Lake with acute myeloid leukemia, both in May 2012.
Mindy Cornille said they learned her son Luke had ALL after three visits to the pediatrician because he had a fever, stopped walking and insisted on being carried.
“They drew blood and right away sent us off to (Children’s at Scottish Rite Pediatric Hospital),” Mindy said. “I really had no clue what was going on. I called my husband (radiologist Dr. Chris Cornille) and he knew right away something was wrong.”
Luke was admitted into the hospital and began chemotherapy treatments immediately.
“That first month was very intense and the first year was pretty tough,” she said. “We kept him home from school because his immune system was pretty much shot.”
The family spent many days and nights in an emergency room and became a second home for the Cornilles, Mindy said.
But Luke is doing better now. He is in his second year of treatment and able to take some of his medications from home, and was able to return to pre-K at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Marietta.
“If you looked at him and you didn’t know him, you’d never know he was sick,” Mindy said. “He’s just an average little boy now.”
Luke will continue his treatments for another two years, but Mindy recognizes that her son is lucky compared to what might have happened if she or her husband had been diagnosed with the same cancer when they were children.
“If my husband or I had been diagnosed with his same illness, there was nothing that they could do,” Mindy said. “There was no treatment or protocols. To me that is shocking and it’s amazing to me that they have so much. Through research they are following ALL, know the cure rate and that’s something people need to know.”
Another family’s story
Lake Bozeman’s mother, Anna, shares that same appreciation for CURE, cancer research and donor support for childhood cancer.
“Until your child is diagnosed, you don’t think about it and I’m guilty of that,” Anna said. “Now it’s real, this is our life. It’s going to be a part of Lake’s life forever and so many side effects from the radiation and chemotherapy that could show up later in life.”
Lake, a Bells Ferry Elementary School second grader, was diagnosed with AML in 2012 just before his 6th birthday, and is now hospitalized at Children’s at Egleston Pediatric Hospital in Atlanta while he recovers from an Aug. 5 cord blood transplant.
They learned that Lake had cancer after the “super healthy” and active 5-year-old started having random fevers and ear infections and would fall asleep almost every day after school in spring 2012.
“The doctor, at first, thought it was severe allergies because his eyes were puffy,” Anna said.
Lake had an appointment with his pediatrician the Monday after Mother’s Day in 2012, where he underwent a CT scan and blood work, and, like Luke Cornille, the Marietta child was immediately admitted to Scottish Rite. Within 24 hours, he began chemotherapy at Egleston.
Anna said her son breezed through chemo without any major problems and was able to start first grade the following August.
“He returned to school fully, started playing basketball in the winter and his hair came back,” she said. “It was like he was never sick.”
That all changed this past April when he relapsed.
“Our only option then was to do a bone marrow transplant, which was very scary because you don’t ever want to have to do that and it can be very difficult to find donors,” she said.
Neither of Lake’s siblings or parents were a match but they eventually found a near match in umbilical cord blood.
The 7-year-old began intense rounds of chemotherapy and radiation July 26 and had his transplant Aug. 5.
“He’s doing really well now and there’s no other way to explain it other than God, prayers and our faith,” she said.
Lake is still at Egleston and Anna doesn’t expect that he will be able to attend school at all this year.
“School is the germiest place you can go. … He will be hospital homebound for a while,” she said.
The family still has a long road ahead of them but with support from the community and organizations like CURE, Anna said they remain hopeful.
For more information about the types of childhood cancer and research or to make a donation to childhood cancer efforts, visit curechildhoodcancer.org.
Childhood cancer facts
* September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
* 182 children from Cobb County received cancer treatment at the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in 2012
* About 400 children statewide were diagnosed with cancer in 2012
* A newborn boy has a 1-in-300 chance of developing cancer by age 20
* A newborn girl has a 1-in-333 chance of developing cancer by age 20
* Cancer is the No. 1 cause of death by disease of children
* The average age of a child diagnosed with cancer is 6 years old
* 1 out of 5 children with childhood cancer die
* There are more than 25 different types of childhood cancer, each requiring its own research.
* Since the 1950s, overall survival rates have risen from less than 10 percent to almost 80 percent