Challenging Childhood Cancer

Challenging Childhood Cancer

Paul Sararu loves living in Alberta and exploring different trails in the mountains with his parents. However, after falling off his bike a couple years ago, persistent pain and stiffness in his knee made hiking more difficult. When the pain began to interfere with his ability to walk at school, his mom scheduled an appointment with the doctor. An ultrasound led to an x-ray. Then a concerned radiologist told them to go straight to the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

“I just remember it being a very long day of blood tests and scans,” recalls Paul, now 17. “They said I had a cancer in my leg called osteosarcoma and I could hardly believe it.”

When the doctor showed him the x-ray and where the cancer was attacking his bones, it became all too real.

“That night was a tough one,” says Paul. “I made a point of thanking my parents for the good life I had experienced since I didn’t know if I would survive.”

From the very beginning, however, the team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital worked tirelessly to give him hope and show him and his worried parents that they were not alone in the fight. Paul describes his oncologist and nurses as soldiers in the war alongside him

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After undergoing a few rounds of chemotherapy, Paul had surgery to remove the affected parts of his leg and knee and replace them with titanium. Following months of painful rehabilitation and physiotherapy, he was walking again and strong enough to complete more treatment to ensure every single cancer cell in his body was destroyed. Now in long-term follow-up care, Paul undergoes scans and tests every six months to monitor for any sign of relapse.

“It’s always in the back of my mind,” says Paul. “All I can do is believe we did everything possible to beat it.”

As challenging as his treatment was, Paul saw many children much younger than him enduring months of medication and procedures that were much worse. Sometimes their outcomes weren’t as good and it would break his heart.

“I am so grateful that the team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital had a plan for me and that I’m back to biking and hiking again,” he says, now off treatment for almost two years. “I can’t imagine what it must be like for those other families if there aren’t answers for their child. Knowing how much my team cared for me, I know they are fighting so hard to win every battle.”

New hope for patients with hard-to-treat cancers is emerging from a different approach to treatment called immunotherapy – harnessing the power of a patient’s own immune system to attack and kill their cancer. This type of therapy may hold the key to the most significant progress in decades toward curing treatment-resistant cancers like brain cancers, relapsed leukemias and cancers that start in the bone or soft tissue. With your support, a dedicated team of clinicians and researchers at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and University of Calgary is poised to accelerate the development of more novel cellular immunotherapies to fight more types of cancer. They are creating an ecosystem of discovery, innovation and translation as part of ACTION, a new one-of-a-kind research initiative that will find new answers and offer new hope to children and families in our province, our country and around the world. Read more.

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