By: Trish Adkins
A million miles may seem like a far distance—but families battling childhood cancer would go a million miles and more for cures for their children.
Every September during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, people everywhere join Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for The Million Mile. The largest childhood cancer awareness challenge, The Million Mile funds critical, innovative research. Childhood cancer families help lead the charge by forming teams, raising awareness, logging miles and fundraising.
Even though childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children, research is critically underfunded as compared to adult cancer research. The Million Mile is a chance to change that fact and to help continue Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s mission of finding cures and safer treatments for all children.
There are a million reasons why everyone should join the fight against childhood cancer. Below, you can meet three very important reasons why you should join The Million Mile this September.
Six-year-old Tillery was diagnosed at 15 months old with a brain tumor.
Seventeen surgeries and two years of chemotherapy later, Tillery just finished kindergarten. Tillery still has half of the tumor in her brain—it cannot be removed because of its tricky location. The good news is the tumor is not currently growing, which means Tillery can live life as a normal kid—a normal kid who happens to be a childhood cancer hero.
Tillery’s family travels four times a year from their home in Tennessee to see her oncologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Early in her treatment, her family used the ALSF Travel For Care program to support their long journey. One night, the Phillips thought about going home, but ALSF had already secured the family a hotel reservation. That night, Tillery woke up screaming. Within minutes, Tillery was in the ER. She had a massive blood clot in her brain which needed emergency treatment.
“That hotel room saved our daughter’s life. Being close to the hospital made a huge difference,” said Alana Phillips, Tillery’s mom.
Her family began fundraising for ALSF while she was in treatment by holding lemonade stands and hosting a 5k. This September, Tillery’s The Million Mile Team called "Til Foundation," will work together to rack up the miles and the awareness. Her entire family is going the distance, too.
“We are all a small drop in the mile bucket. But when we add them all up, they will make something really impressive,“ said Alana.
Maddie was 8 years old when she began having unexplained pain, tingling and numbness in her left leg. An x-ray revealed something no one expected: metastatic Ewing sarcoma. Maddie had a softball-sized mass in her left hip and nodules in her lung. Treatment—chemotherapy, radiation and surgery—gave Maddie the cancer-free status she was determined to have.
“We thought, we got this, let’s just move on. But then she relapsed." said Amy Shaw, Maddie’s Mom.
Two years later, a routine follow-up revealed the cancer was back in Maddie’s other lung. Again, Maddie went through surgery to remove the nodules, chemotherapy and radiation. And again, Maddie would be cancer-free, only to relapse two years later. Maddie was 12 years old and battling cancer for a third time.
Maddie enrolled in a clinical trial at the Cleveland Clinic, led by ALSF-funded researcher Dr. Peter Anderson. At first the trial worked, but within a few months, the Ewing sarcoma was back. Maddie’s family tried another clinical trial, this one for a drug called Pazopanib, which had shown promise in the treatment of other types of sarcomas. Again, the trial seemed to work at first, but then Maddie relapsed—this time in her brain. Maddie had brain surgery—and only weeks later she attended her first day of high school.
Now, Maddie, an honor roll student, is waiting for her own cure while fighting for cures for other children. Together with their community, Maddie’s Million Mile team, raised over $40,000 for ALSF in 2018. They have one wish for 2019: the right clinical trial that gives Maddie a cure.
Sara lit up any room she entered with her smile. She was diagnosed with germinoma brain cancer at age 14. Sara remained her social butterfly self all through treatment.
But then, just before she turned 18, Sara’s cancer returned. Her family was able to enjoy many more beautiful moments with her. Several months later, Sara passed away.
Her mother, Angie, believes research has the potential to lead to treatments that could save children like her daughter, who are battling rare forms of childhood cancer.
This September, just 10 months after Sara’s death, Angie is leading the charge towards more childhood cancer research. Her team, Sara’s Turtally Awesome Walkers, is dedicated to a future without childhood cancer.
“I am doing The Million Mile to hopefully prevent some other parent from going through what my family has gone through,” says Angie.
This September during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month turn awareness into action, by joining The Million Mile, the largest childhood cancer awareness challenge that funds researchers so they can find better treatments and more cures for kids battling cancer. Sign up to start your own team for The Million Mile, raise awareness and help us help kids fight cancer.