Family working to spread awareness of childhood cancer
Grand Junction couple Rusty and Jami Lloyd couldn’t have fathomed two months ago how different their family life would be today.
On July 16, their 3-year-old daughter Gracie was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer, specifically nephroblastoma, a cancer that attacks the kidneys. It’s commonly known as Wilms’ Tumor. After noticing a hard spot on the side of her stomach, the couple took Gracie in for a checkup and the spot was attributed to constipation.
When the hardened area did not dissipate, they returned to their doctor and a CT scan revealed their worst fears. A tumor the size of a grapefruit had attacked Gracie’s kidney and was spreading through the little girl’s body. A day after she was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer, the little girl was in Denver’s Children’s Hospital, having the tumor and one of her kidneys surgically removed.
Now, the playful, loving little girl with an older sister, Elly, is eight treatments into chemotherapy that is slated to last another 11 more months.
“Our eyes have just been opened to so many people who are fighting cancer,” Jami Lloyd said.
“You know that childhood cancer exists, but you never think it’s going to happen to your child.”
The whole process is one the Lloyds hope no other family has to endure. But they do want others to be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with the disease so parents can stay vigilant. September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness month, a time the family hope others will recognize.
The Lloyds said they are thankful for the outpouring of support from family, friends and even other families with children fighting cancer who have come forward to help and console them during their struggle. They started a blog to update others on Gracie’s condition and have found communication with others to be therapeutic. The site is at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/gracielloyd.
Little Gracie doesn’t cry anymore during her chemotherapy treatments that leave her weak, sister Elly boasted from the family’s living room recently.
The Lloyds said they plan to devote their lives to increasing awareness of childhood cancer and fighting for a cure. For every dollar spent on breast cancer research for adults, 30 cents is spent researching childhood cancers, studies show. That’s a statistic the Lloyds find hard to live with.
“In this age of their lives it’s extremely hard-hitting for them. They’re so young and so innocent,” Rusty said. “Some of them that go in for treatment for years lose a big part of their childhood.”
About 12,400 children under age 20 are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States.
In 1998, 2,500 children died from the disease, according to the National Childhood Cancer Foundation. Leukemia is the most-common form of childhood cancer, seconded by brain tumors.
Other forms of cancer in children include lymphoma, neuroblastoma (a tumor found outside the brain), bone tumors, retinoblastoma, and Wilms’ Tumor, being the most rare.
Possible symptoms of cancer in children can include a persistent cough or fever, an enlarging mass, pain in muscles or bones that isn’t related to an injury and continued vomiting that is accompanied by a headache.
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