The Childhood Cancer Blog

A Visit To Huntsman Cancer Institute

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Researchers with ALSF hero families at Huntsman Cancer Institute

Our daughter Alex wanted to help find a cure for all kids with cancer. After battling the disease for more than half her life, she decided to set up lemonade stands to help doctors on their way to doing just that. It is our honor to continue what she started through our medical grants program, and we are so pleased to have thousands of volunteers around the country who host lemonade stands and events to allow us to fund promising research. Recently, one of our staff members traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah to meet with some of our researchers. While she was there she also visited a Grand Stand in the area. Here is a short account of her trip.

- Liz & Jay Scott

On Friday, September 17, I traveled to Salt Lake City to meet with Nikolaus Trede, M.D., Ph.D., and Joshua Schiffman, M.D., both of the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), who have received Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation grants. I had the privilege of hearing why these doctors decided to go into pediatric cancer research. Among the things they attribute to pushing them into the field - they felt that although cancer is fair to no one, kids who get cancer are just that much more ripped off because they have less time to live healthy. One of the other researchers I met that day, Dr. Kimble Frazer, said specifically, “If you tell someone they have to get cancer and you give them the choice between getting it as a 60-year-old or a 6-year-old, they will almost always choose as a 60-year-old! That is why childhood cancer research is important.” That really got to me and gave me a great deal of perspective.

Nikolaus Trede, M.D., Ph.D in his lab at HCI

Everyone I spoke with really seemed to like their job and their enjoyment/excitement wore off on me. To be able to spend that much time with the researchers was fascinating, inspiring, and quite an honor! They are people too - just really smart people who care a lot about helping families and their children get better. Going behind the scenes to see exactly where they work allowed me to see where the money I help to raise goes. It was quite motivating.

The very next day, I went to the Torres family Grand Stand. This is the first year that the Torres family has held a Grand Stand, and it was amazing! Their daughter Brinley is currently fighting childhood cancer, and they held this event in her honor. I was astonished at how hard the Torres family and their extended family worked to prepare the details of their Grand Stand which included prizes, volunteers, supplies, music, activities, food, advertising and so much more. The entire family welcomed me with open arms and made me feel a part of the group. Their energy was contagious! Kristen, Brinley’s mom, said that if people only realized what it was truly like for a child to experience cancer, everyone would be screaming from the rooftops to find a cure right away! When I saw the poster she created with photos and statistics of how much Brinley and the family had been through, I better understood what she meant.

What a wonderful and eye opening trip this was for me. I was able to meet with researchers who are working toward cures, as well as a family who may be directly impacted by such research. This really brought everything into perspective for me and reminded me of just why Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation exists.

- Jennifer Kelly