Families touched by childhood cancer work together to find a cure

Source: WHOtv.com 

April 28, 2010 (Des Moines, IA) - Every day about 35 children in the United States are diagnosed with cancer. Some Iowa families are devoting their lives to finding a cure, because the disease robbed them of their kids.

"He was shy at first, but once you got to know him he was the sweetest little boy," Michelle Mertz says about her son Alec. "Everybody loved him. He was one of those kids everybody gravitated to."

Alec loved soccer and swimming and fishing. He was a lively, healthy little boy until he was seven. "He was having severe headaches, nausea, and vomiting," explains Michelle. In October of 2002 doctors told Michelle Mertz that Alec had a rare brain tumor. "Your heart is," Michelle struggles to speak through her tears, "your brain is completely gone. You just look at your child and pray to God. I prayed to God to watch over Alec."

After surgery and radiation, doctors said Alec was cancer-free. "Unfortunately in August of 2004 they found another spot in his brain and we went back to Mayo and they found one in his spine also." That meant more surgery, more painful treatments and more hospital stays.

"We were blessed to get him back to school. He played baseball that summer and got to go on a last fishing trip to Canada," Michelle says with a smile, "unfortunately Alec lost his battle with cancer on September 7th of 2005. He was very loved. Over 600 people filled the gym in Walnut for our little boy. For ten years, seven months and twelve days he made quite the impact on a lot of people."

Now Michelle and her family are having an impact. "Our team is team JAB. We are jabbing out childhood cancer." "JAB" stands for Jace, Alec and Brant. Three boys killed by cancer. Three families raising money to find a cure.

"We've all lost our kids but we're doing this so parents don't have to hear -- your child has cancer and there's nothing we can do."

The Cure Search Walk funds research by the Children's Oncology Group -- it's made up of medical professionals who treat more than 90 percent of childhood cancer in the U.S. "The research has to be there," Michelle insists, "the funding has to be there for the children."

For team J.A.B. the memories of Jace, Alec and Brant live on, along with the hope that someday every child with cancer is guaranteed a cure. "They're so young and so innocent and they deserve a chance to live, to graduate high school, get married, have kids of their own. Even though our kids don't have that chance we want to give that opportunity to another parent."

- Erin Kiernan, Reporter

Christine Bork
Email Christine
(800) 458-6223

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