Posted: June 13, 2019
Travis Stafford is a father and childhood cancer advocate. He is committed to finding new treatments and cures by supporting CureSearch programs. In his mind, his son George’s future depends on it.
Travis Stafford’s perception of fatherhood changed after his son George was diagnosed with Wilms tumor at age 7. “The dad is supposed to be the rock, protector and provider for the family. I came to realize that is was okay to let my guard down and just be—be there, be scared and be emotional.”
“It’s never a good sign when your doctor enters the room in tears.”
In July 2014, just after his 7th birthday, George complained of a stomachache on and off for a couple of days. Travis and his wife Jen took him to the pediatrician. “It didn’t take long to know that something was terribly wrong.”
As George laid down on the examination table, they could see something six inches long protruding along his right side. He was rushed to the hospital immediately. “All they could tell us at the hospital was that it wasn’t leukemia and we needed to get to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City (350 miles away) as fast as we could.”
“At first, you just go numb and try to take in all of the information.”
“That week was really a blur-tests, doctors, nurses, techs, social services. It was a lot to take in. After his first MRI, we heard those damn words, your child has cancer.” George was diagnosed with anaplastic Wilms tumor (stage 3), a type of kidney cancer in children.
Before he could have surgery, George received two months of chemotherapy to try to shrink the football-sized tumor that had taken over his left kidney. Surgery was followed by more chemotherapy alternated with radiation treatments at University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute. Straddling long stays in distant hospitals and maintaining family life takes a lot of support from others. “Swallowing my pride and accepting outside help was the hardest thing. I wanted to be in control, and I couldn’t. Cancer was.”
Thankfully, after a year of treatment, George was sent home cancer-free in August 2015. Looking back, Travis shared some advice for other cancer fathers, “Cancer moms develop an unbreakable bond with each other. Dads need that, too. It’s okay to cry, to be scared. Find cancer dad groups locally or on social media. Talk about it. Share your feelings, your anger and your knowledge. I feel like dads are the forgotten group. People always ask, ‘How’s your wife, your kids?’ Not many people ask how the dads are doing.”
“No kid should have to go through this, period.”
“No one cares about childhood cancer until their child or grandchild gets cancer. It’s time that changed! George is not a cancer survivor; he is surviving cancer. The same treatments that cured him can still give him cancer-maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday. He has had a few scares, but it does not hold him back or keep him down. That’s why it’s so important to raise money and awareness for children’s cancer research.”
“We need an army to fight this!”
At Primary Children’s Hospital, the Stafford’s received CureSearch’s educational resource materials for families. Later on, they learned about CureSearch Walks and CureSearch’s mission to fund critical research to find new, less-toxic treatments for children’s cancer. Now, the family is organizing their own DIY Gold Fundraiser for CureSearch. The inaugural George Says Cancer Sucks Bowling Tournament is coming up on August 24, 2019 in St. George, Utah. “This is our first, of hopefully many, bowling events to raise money. We need an army to fight this!”
For 30 years, CureSearch for Children’s Cancer has worked tirelessly to accelerate the development of new, less-toxic children’s cancer treatments, including the cancer that George was stricken with – Wilms tumor. Learn more about the progress we are making thanks to the support of volunteers and advocates like Travis Stafford.
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