A Little Survivor

When you talk to some of the staff, nurses, doctors, Child Life specialists, and social workers at UNM Children’s Hospital, a lot of them say that children are strong, much stronger than adults. Their little bodies and minds can handle pain and illness much better than most adults.

Why is this? Is it their innocence or lack of total understanding of what is happening to them?

On the sixth floor of UNM Children’s Hospital, you’ll see little bald heads, little children with old souls. You look into their eyes and you can see that they know. There’s no misunderstanding. They know they have cancer. Some of them can even pronounce the kind of cancer they have better than any adult.

They know what’s happening to them and they know there will be good days and bad days. But, at the end of the day, they are all still kids who look forward to hearing from their friends, playing the latest video game, or a visit from their favorite nurse.

They are courageous kids facing an illness that many adults have a hard time understanding.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and UNM is taking part by recognizing the many faces of childhood cancer, past and current patients.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), pediatric cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children under age 15. Leukemias (blood cell cancers) and cancers of the brain and central nervous system account for more than half of the new cases.

In the United States, more than 18,000 cases of cancer in children are diagnosed each year and approximately 100 of them are New Mexico’s children.

UNM’s Pediatric Hematology Oncology program is the only program in New Mexico dedicated to treating and researching childhood cancer.

The program currently works with the NCI and the Children’s Oncology Group to conduct clinical trials to develop better treatments.

Children’s Oncology Group is an international research group that is comprised of more than 200 hospitals in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.

Since 1997, UNM has participated in all of the Children’s Oncology Group clinical trials.

"Clinical trials show that close relationship between medicine, science and hope," said Stuart Winter, MD, pediatric hematologist oncologist at UNM. "Our link to state-of-the art clinical trials assures that each of our patients has the opportunity to benefit from its collective successes. These efforts require thousands of patients and the participation of hundreds of medical centers, and yet can make an important difference in the life of just one patient."

How You Can Help

Childhood cancer research is important. Research helps develop better treatments and continues to discover possible cures.

On October 13, the UNM Pediatric Hematology and Oncology program is hosting its second annual CureSearch Walk.

The CureSearch Walk celebrates and honors children whose lives have been affected by childhood cancer, while raising funds for lifesaving research. Learn more here: http://www.curesearchwalk.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1032737.