3 Years Old at Diagnosis.
Before Caden Shrauger could walk, he was hiking. His parents, Pam and Jason, often carried their young son in a backpack as they trekked through the mountains of Montana. The family’s healthy lifestyle also extended into the kitchen, where Pam often fed Caden organic foods. “I had always been super cautious with Caden. So, I couldn’t wrap my head around how he, at three years old, could get cancer,” she says.
Caden was diagnosed with stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma, a solid tumor that affects seven percent of all children with cancer. He began treatment at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where he had been airlifted with his father at his side. After packing up the house and making arrangements for the family pets, Pam was on the next available flight to Seattle with Camryn, Caden’s newborn sister.
Caden spent nearly 18 months in the hospital. In addition to the rigors of chemotherapy and two forms of radiation, he underwent surgery, a bone marrow transplant, and immunotherapy. More than 700 miles from home, the family spent a period of time living in an RV in the hospital parking lot. “Caden’s battle with cancer touched every facet of our lives; nothing was undisturbed,” Pam says. “But I’d like to think we’re a stronger family unit because of it.”
The family returned home to Montana, and despite continued outpatient treatment, Caden experienced two relapses. However, for the following three years, Caden showed no evidence of disease. As he regained his strength, he returned to the activities he loved: building with Legos, playing drums, and hiking with his family once again – this time as part of the Ultimate Hike, which backs CureSearch’s effort to fund lifesaving children’s cancer research.
Since the hike, Pam notes, Caden has shown evidence of disease in his bone marrow, and doctors have issued tests to monitor any advancement. “We have learned that this disease is not straightforward. There’s so much we don’t know,” she says. “Cures are so desperately needed. Research is the only way we’ll get there, so we will always pour our passion into research in the effort to cure more children.”
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