Families Go To Bat for Better Cancer Therapies

(Omaha World-Herald) Omahan Kellie Beresh remembers well the devastating side effects of the cancer treatments that have kept her son Jake alive in the 10 years since doctors discovered a lemon-size tumor on his skull.

One side effect that was particularly gruesome: a gaping hole in the then-6-year-old's scalp, caused by a radiation burn.

"I could see the bone behind his ear," she recalled.

Sickened by the sight and aching for her child, she told the radiation oncologist, "I can't bring him here anymore for you just to burn him." The oncologist grabbed her by the shoulder and said, "You don't have a choice if you want your son to live. You're going to bring him back tomorrow."

Beresh and other parents of kids with cancer are grateful their children survived the chemotherapy and radiation — many kids die of cancer before they finish chemo. But the parents are frustrated by the treatments' long-term side effects and what they see as a lack of updated treatment regimens, saying the medical weapons used to battle some cancers haven't changed much in the past 25-plus years.

That concern has been in the spotlight recently as 7-year-old Jack Hoffman of Atkinson, Neb., has been honored with a run in the Huskers' spring game, a U.S. Senate resolution by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and a meeting with President Barack Obama.

The parents of Jack, Jake and other pediatric cancer survivors have turned their frustration into action, making themselves experts on research in progress and leaders in fundraising efforts.

Eight years ago, Kellie Beresh helped start an annual walk for the CureSearch for Children's Cancer foundation. Beresh expects the total from the event scheduled for June 1 at the Village Pointe shopping center to push the total raised past $1 million. CureSearch now holds about 50 such walks across the country.

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Christine Bork
Email Christine
(800) 458-6223

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