Before her three-month-old daughter, Greta, was diagnosed with a rare cancer, Maggie used to turn away from stories about children with cancer. Not anymore. Maggie now understands how critical Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) is in saving lives like Greta’s. If you don’t read any further than this, you need to know that without your tax deductible donations to SU2C, their innovative and collaborative approach in bringing researchers together and clinical trials to children and adults with a wide array of cancers might not survive. SU2C research investigates cancers associated with more than 80% of all cancer diagnoses in the US and Canada.
If you can’t watch this year’s SU2C Telecast Friday, September 9th, 2016, at 7pm CST, on most major television networks, please give a donation now to support SU2C’s research programs. 100% of money raised from the public goes to support SU2C research itself.
Greta’s parents couldn’t have known she would spend almost three years of her young life fighting cancer. Not only was Greta a baby when she was diagnosed and began treatment, but she had a rare cancer: infant Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).
Her father is an electrical engineer and her mother, Maggie, is a molecular biologist. Ironically, Maggie is a project manager for clinical research studies like the SU2C study Greta ultimately participated in.
“When she was first diagnosed, we poured over reports and their data,” Maggie said. “No one really knows how to treat these rare cancers; whether to treat them with chemo and/or bone marrow transplants, plus transplants for babies can be deadly. We had to be convinced that transplant was the way to go.” Because her cancer was so aggressive, Greta was routed to bone marrow transplant after her initial chemo treatment. Charlotte, her older sister, was her donor.
“Just when you think it can’t get more awful,” Maggie said, “You find out it can.” Greta had life-threatening complications and was on dialysis and a breathing machine. Finally, when Greta was released from the hospital, she had a few good months before she relapsed. Her family considered palliative care until an infant leukemia support group on Facebook informed Maggie of a SU2C clinical trial that had just opened up at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
“I called Seattle Children’s and in 30 minutes, Dr. Gardner called me back… We packed up our house; shipped our dogs to my brother’s house; my parents kept Charlotte, and we drove up to Seattle with our suitcases and lived there for eight months while Greta was treated. It was a last ditch effort, and we are so thankful for the help we got there.
“While there were other children participating in this pediatric T-cell therapy, PLAT-02 trial, Greta was the first baby treated. We wanted something that could be curative… It can be that for some people. What I do know is the Stand Up To Cancer T-cell therapy Seattle Children’s is doing is a game changer.
Because childhood cancers receive 4% of our national cancer research budget, what makes up for the disparity are private dollars, such as funds raised by Stand Up To Cancer.
Greta’s always been a happy baby, but it wasn’t until after the T-cell therapy that her parents saw her true personality emerge because she felt better. “She’s been blossoming ever since. She started preschool last year. She’s the class clown. She’s a total goofball,” Maggie said. “She’s a great sister and a great friend who’s really compassionate. She’s a joyful child.” Greta had her two-year, post-T-cell therapy checkup, and her oncologist has referred her to survivorship clinic.
“We’re happy with each little milestone. When you survive something like this, everything takes on a deeper meaning. For a child who we didn’t think would make it through the night sometimes, just seeing her walk through the doorway is a huge thing.”