By Clare S. Richie
Every day, two classrooms full of children are diagnosed with cancer, the number one disease killer of American children. Yet only 2 percent of the National Institute of Health funding is spent on childhood cancer research. For decades, child cancer survivability has remained relatively unchanged with children receiving the same treatments as adults even though the diseases are different.
When confronted with these realities seven years ago, the Chance family of Druid Hills chose to “Press On” – to raise funds to end childhood cancer and to encourage us to face whatever challenges life hands us.
In 2006, 3-year old Patrick Chance was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. “Patrick was a sweet, intelligent, and curious boy who loved fishing, collecting coins and rocks, building Star Wars Legos, and was even sworn in as a Nanuet fireman,” his mother, Erin Chance, said.
Three months after Patrick’s diagnosis, Erin and Stephen Chance started Press On to CURE Childhood Cancer to identify alternative therapies and fund research to cure neuroblastoma and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Press On has raised more than $1.5 million for neuroblastoma and AML research at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Patrick lived every moment to the fullest until his death on his ninth birthday, Jan. 9, 2012. One year later, his parents dedicated a specialized radiation therapy room at CHOA in honor of their son. Thanks to Press On, families in the Southeast now have access to a critical treatment called MBIG (metaiodobenzylguanidine) therapy. The Chances also made sure to include an adjoining room for families – with three-way video and microphones to better connect parents and children without risk of radiation exposure to the parents.
Patrick must be smiling from heaven because his desire to “heal people” is being realized. Erin explained, “Patrick came to me in a dream and told me ‘he’s ready,’ meaning that the first patient in the therapy room had low enough radiation levels to leave.” Erin contacted the nurse next day who confirmed that assessment.
Patrick’s legacy of healing extends beyond that room and the other research Press On is funding. He has inspired his sisters and the children of his community to be the “generous generation.” From knowing Patrick and his journey, Atlanta children are inspired to help others, to be kind, to raise money for change, and to think beyond themselves.
“I believe we are all given the opportunity to find our life’s mission” Erin said.
For more information about supporting Press On and its upcoming fundraising events, visit pressonfund.org.