Chestermere City Council recognized September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month at the Sept. 4 council meeting.
“It’s really about raising awareness for childhood cancer,” said Lisa Shea, Director of Philanthropy for the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta.
In addition to Shea, Council was joined by childhood cancer survivor Landyn Chemelli and his mom Chelcee Chemelli.
Chelcee agreed that raising awareness of both childhood cancers and the work of the foundation is invaluable.
“It’s not an easy thing to go through,” she said, “The more of a community you can get behind you the better you’re probably going to do through treatment for your child, and for yourself.”
While cancer is one of the most known, researched and feared diseases, with so many different types of cancers out there, childhood cancer is often overlooked when it comes to research dollars.
“It’s a consistently underfunded disease in Canada,” said Shea, “Only about five per cent of research funding goes to it.”
There are a number of reasons for the lack of funding.
Prime among them is the fact that kid’s cancer is relatively rare and often the cause of childhood cancers is unknown.
That said, Shea said that childhood cancer is the, “number one killer of kids aside from accidents.”
Despite the challenges, Shea said that kids cancer research is improving but still has a ways to go.
“There have only been three new cancer drugs approved for children in the last 40 years,” she said.
“We’ve modified adult drugs but the drugs that we’re giving to kids are mostly adult drugs and they’re quite toxic,” said Shea, “which is where you get some of the side effects coming in.”
The side effects and long-term effects of childhood cancers can be significant.
“About 75 per cent of those kids will have long term effects… from the chemo or from the cancer,” said Shea.
“Those can involve anything from learning disabilities to physical disabilities to Post Traumatic stress,” she said.
Helping fund research and support children and their families as they battle cancer is where the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta comes in.
“We’re one of the largest funding agencies of pediatric cancer in Alberta,” said Shea.
The foundation also supports kids going through treatment with summer camps and with education support programs.
The summer camps include everything from regular summer camps to a brief family camp, a regular family camp, and some teen camps for kids and their families.
“That’s about kids being kids,” said Shea.
By providing these camps, children undergoing treatment or recovering from treatment have the opportunity to participate in activities that they otherwise wouldn’t.
The other support provided by the foundation involves outreach to the kids and families.
These include the education program with tutoring and a peer support program which promotes physical exercise.
Chelcee said that the support she and her family received from the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta made Landyn’s treatment for cancer easier.
“They were always open to talk to use about anything,” said Chelcee.
“It’s kind of a close-knit family where you all get to know each other and if you have any question about anything whether its treatment wise or his morale,” she said.
Landyn has been off chemotherapy for almost 5 years.
“As of November he’ll be considered cured…November is his 5 years,” said Chelcee.
Landyn, who said he is feeling really good, appreciated the support he received during his treatment from the foundation.
“They helped me make friends,” he said.
Landyn and his family will continue to receive support from the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta until he turns 18.
“They’re involved in their lives until they become adults,” said Chelcee.
This includes continuing to go to Camp Kindle and getting to participate in family events such as meeting members of the Calgary Stampeders or Landyn’s favourite, the family ski day.
“It was about keeping moral up,” said Chelcee.
“Keeping the kids happy and giving them something to look forward to,” she said.
For more information about the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta and upcoming events go to www.kidscancercare.ca.