Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Feature:
The Saal Family Beats the Odds
We continue our Childhood Cancer Awareness Month features with a story of one child beating the brain cancer odds. The Saal family story serves to remind us why we continue to fight together to find cures for childhood cancer. As a united team of superheroes and sidekicks, we will continue to fund research to find less-toxic treatments and cures so that kids like Camryn and her family never have to battle cancer. Hear more from the Saal family about how they beat the odds.
Tell us about your connection to childhood cancer and CureSearch.
Our daughter Camryn was diagnosed with primitive neuro ectodermal tumor (PNET) when she was seven. Camryn had three tumors in her brain and her spinal cord was covered with small tumors. She had a 20% chance of survival. Camryn went through a protocol developed by the Children’s Oncology Group while she was being treated at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. She was able to beat her cancer and is a happy 14-year-old girl today. We are beyond blessed to still have our daughter with us and we give thanks every day for her. We’ve come to realize that treatments aren’t perfect. Camryn has long-term effects from her treatment. We feel treatments and success rates have a long way to go and because of that, we started a foundation to give back.
Tell us about your efforts for children’s cancer research and CureSearch’s Gold DIY program.
We decided to give the funds from our fundraiser to the CureSearch Gold DIY program because we know the money is going to research. The event is simply to raise awareness and funds to help find a cure.
Why do you think it’s important for everyone to work together for children’s cancer cures?
We were affected by many great organizations during Camryn’s battle, however no other organization played a bigger role in her survival than the organization that developed the trial she was a part of. Research and trials will provide the paths to curing this awful disease, but without funding we will continue to “change” kids or just simply lose them.
What would you say to another family who may be going through a childhood cancer diagnosis?
We have talked to many parents that are dealing with a child with cancer. First off, you have to stay positive. We never focused on the fact that Camryn had an 80% chance of dying. We only talked about her being in the 20%. We didn’t focus on all the things they said could happen. We focused on what we could control why she was going through treatment. Was she receiving the best care possible? Are we doing everything we can to ensure she stays healthy when her counts are low? What can we do to make our child happy during this tough time? Secondly, we focused on family. We communicated a ton and we tried to keep life as normal as possible, which is really tough. Cancer doesn’t only affect the child with cancer. It affects siblings, moms, dads – everyone. Everyone needs a lot of love during the fight. Finally, we got closer to God. We prayed a ton.
Why do you support CureSearch?
We were affected by many great organizations during Camryn’s battle, however no other organization played a bigger role in her survival than the organization that developed the trial she was a part of. The trial gave us hope we would be in the 20% survival group. I remember spending time praying the arm of the trial Camryn was assigned would be the most successful and affective. Research and trials funded by CureSearch will provide the paths to curing this awful disease. The more support, funding, and awareness we can raise, the more kids we will save.
Describe the non-profit you created on Camryn’s behalf.
Brains for Hope is a not for profit foundation designed to raise funds and awareness in the fight again pediatric cancer. Throughout our daughter’s fight we were exposed to so many great organizations that helped us. We were compelled to give back and felt like we had a good platform to build on. We operate in Fort Wayne, IN and hold fundraising events to achieve our mission. Our team is small. My wife, Maggie and I plan and coordinate everything with an unbelievable team of friends, most of which we were right by our side through Camryn’s fight. Our goal is to have two events each year, continue to grow, give back and have an impact.
Why is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month important to you?
It is very important to us because of the awareness factor. Many other cancer awareness months have grown tremendously over the years and have support from major organizations that are in the public’s eye every day. This type of exposure generates public support. We hope that one day, Pediatric cancer awareness month will be on the same level. Ultimately, we want the month to be a celebration of great breakthroughs in treatments and huge increases in survival rates.
You too can join our team of supporters, partners, industry leaders and researchers who are changing the face of childhood cancer! Consider getting involved with CureSearch, or if you haven’t already – donate today to help fund research for kids like Camryn.
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