Local moms hope to increase funding for pediatric cancer research

Published: Sep. 19, 2016 at 9:44 PM CDT
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Cancer is a word no one like to hear especially when it involves the life of a child.

More than 10,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year and many of them utilize hospitals and clinics in Central Texas, which offer life-saving treatments.

Amy Gilstrap’s son, Blain Lenoir, was diagnosed with leukemia on November 14, 2015. Blain had played in a baseball game the day before where his mom noticed a lump on his neck which was diagnosed as Lymphoma.

Blain is 13.

"Forty-three children are diagnosed every day and 43 sets of parents are given that devastating news every day,” Gilstrap said.

"People ask me, do you feel like you've been punched or kicked in the teeth and I'm like no, I feel like someone just told me my baby has cancer and there is nothing I can do about it.”

She is not alone.

Tiffany Covert’s daughter, McKenzie, is battling a form of cancer as well.

"Sept. 24, 2015 I was a mom,” Covert said.

“Sept. 25, 2015 I was a cancer mom.”

McKenzie has undergone a year of treatments so far, and still faces two more years of doctor visits, chemo treatments, transfusions and other procedures.

McKenzie is just 4.

"There are so many kids out there with cancer and so many different kinds of childhood cancer and it just gets four percent of funding,” Covert said.

“There needs to be more awareness and more funding so we can find those cures.”

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation has found only four percent of U.S. federal funding is solely dedicated to childhood cancer research.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation mission involves, “funding research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long, healthy lives.”

Dr. Guy Grayson is part of the Senior Pediatric Oncology staff at Baylor Scott and White.

He said while funding is still limited, research and medicine has radically improved the survival rates among children diagnosed with cancer.

"In 1960, we cured virtually no childhood cancers,” Grayson said.

But now, he says close to 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer will be cured.

Which gives children like Blain and McKenzie hope.

"Stay strong, you'll get through it,” Blain said.

“It always gets better, I mean it may seem like the end right now, it sucks and it just awful, but you will get through it.”

Organizations known for designating a large majority of funding specifically to child cancer research include the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the American Childhood Cancer Organization and the Children's Miracle Network.