Hockey Marathon Shoots, Kids Score
In the fall of 2019, 15-year-old Sarah found a small lump on her neck. After showing it to her parents and a few friends at school, she thought she should get it checked. An x-ray and ultrasound led to a CT Scan that raised further questions. A biopsy then resulted in a PET scan which was followed by a visit to the oncology clinic at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. It was there that Sarah met Dr. Greg Guilcher who explained that she had Hodgkin Lymphoma – a cancer of the lymphatic system.
While she sat and listened to the doctors talking, Sarah could hardly believe she had cancer. “I was shocked, and I was so confused, and my family was so worried,” says Sarah.
She found solace when the team told her that with treatment, her cancer was 100% curable.
Sarah was surprised by how “chill” the whole chemotherapy situation was in the oncology clinic. It was shortly after her second treatment that her hair began to fall out — and with it came lots of tears.
“I was really sad about it,” Sarah says. “But then I accepted it, because you know what? Your hair doesn’t define who you are. I was getting cured, that’s all that matters.”
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With the support of her family and a strong positive attitude, she finished treatment in April 2020 — just as the pandemic was unfolding.
Money raised through this year’s Hockey Marathon for the Kids will support ACTION (Alberta Cellular Therapy and Immune Oncology Initiative). Recently, new hope for patients with hard-to-treat cancers has come from a different approach to treatment called immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the patient’s own immune system to attack and kill their cancer. It involves taking a sample of the patient’s cancer and isolating a specific target at which to point an immune response and reprogramming the patient’s immune cells to attack that specific target. The overarching goal of ACTION is to develop safe and effective therapies using immune cells engineered to recognize and kill cancer cells, without harming normal tissues and causing adverse side effects for young people like Sarah.
While no one wants to be at the hospital, Sarah, who is now 17, says the hospital team made her happy and comfortable and gave her lots of hope throughout all her months of treatment. She is now in remission and has enjoyed returning to school and being with her friends.
She will be cheering on Team Hope and Team Cure when they take to the ice March 31-April 11 at the Chestermere Recreation Centre.
“I’m beyond grateful for everyone who is putting this event together and everyone who is participating and supporting it with donations,” says Sarah.
“From my experience in the hospital, it hurts my heart to see young kids battling such a disease. We can do more for them through research like this. I’m proud to say I’m a Canadian citizen because our nation never disappoints. Go Team Hope and Team Cure!”
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. Your support of Hockey Marathon for the Kids will enable a dedicated team of clinicians and researchers at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and University of Calgary to accelerate the development of more novel cellular immunotherapies to fight more types of cancer. Read more about Hockey Marathon for the Kids here.