Kinder Treatments are Possible
Erin Callin will never forget the day in August 2019 when the Emergency Room physician at the Alberta Children’s Hospital said she needed to sit down to tell her some news. Erin knew it wasn’t going to be good – and it wasn’t.
Her sweet two-year-old son, Luke, had Leukemia and was going to be admitted that night to start treatment right away.
“I wanted to cry, but I needed to be brave in front of him,” Erin says. “There was really no time to process all that was happening.”
When Luke had bruising on his skin and acting like he was fighting a cold, a walk-in doctor told Erin to take him to the ER for blood work, which found cancer cells in his blood. After a few days of more tests, a bone marrow biopsy and a round of treatment, including high dose steroids and chemotherapy, he was diagnosed with high-risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
For the next 13 months, Luke had blood transfusions, lumbar punctures, and multiple rounds of chemotherapy. The treatment, and the accompanying steroids, took a toll on his little body and it pained Erin to watch Luke suffer.
“Seeing him so lethargic and not interested in anything was just so heartbreaking,” says Erin. “I was worried that this was who he was going to be from now on.”
Extra cuddles from mom and dad and lots of love from his three big brothers helped to get him through some of the toughest days. Luke’s spirits were also lifted after some special visits with his favourite team, the Calgary Flames. Erin is grateful for the expert care Luke received at the hospital, and the treatments he could receive at home through the Hospital at Home program.
“We wouldn’t want to be going through something like this anywhere else, and we are so fortunate to have the best care right here in our community,” she says.
Where Your Money Goes
New Cures For Childhood Cancer
Researchers and scientists are joining forces in a new initiative to find answers.Learn more
Money raised through 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 children like Luke.
Thankfully, Luke is now in remission, but his treatment continues for many more months to ensure all cancer cells are destroyed in his body. Even though Luke visits the clinic once a month, he is back doing things he loves like playing hockey on his own team, coached by Clayton Hall, who plays on Team Hope, for the Hockey Marathon for Kids.
“I am so grateful for the Hockey Marathon for Kids stepping up for children like Luke by taking on this incredible feat in support of cancer research,” says Erin. “It’s truly awe-inspiring that they will play this marathon hockey game all in hopes of ensuring children with cancer can get back to being kids again. We can’t wait to cheer on all the players and watch them beat the world record again.”
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. 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.