Kate Prokop, High Risk Leukemia

4 Years Old at Diagnosis

Kate ProkopOur family’s journey with cancer began in February of 2008. My daughter, Kate, was 4 years old and in preschool at the time. She had not been feeling well. She had a low grade fever and red dots on her ankles. We became concerned and took Kate to the pediatrician. After performing a variety of tests, the doctor took my husband and me into the nurses’ lounge to tell us that Kate had been diagnosed with high risk leukemia.

We were devastated. I could not stop thinking that “things like this just don’t happen to us.” We began Kate’s treatments immediately. Between February of 2008 and Memorial Day on 2010, Kate had 15 different varieties of chemotherapy treatments – including injections and pills.

Today, I am pleased to share that Kate is doing well. She is an active 11 year-old, who loves computers, drawing and making jewelry. However, Kate does have some side-effects, including panic attacks and anxiety. Our new goal is to begin a long-term care treatment plan at her clinic in the coming months.

Kate ProkopBecause of our journey with cancer, my family is a team – a unit. My husband, two older children, Kate and I are much closer now. We really enjoy each other and our time together because we know another day is not guaranteed. We also appreciate the kindness we have received from numerous family and friends. We would have never been able to make it through the difficult times without the financial and emotional support from our family.

As a result of our experiences with cancer, I also decided to change careers and become a nurse. One of the factors that influenced my decision was the huge amount of support and encouragement my family received from the nurses who helped us during Kate’s treatments.

I began as a nurse in the regular pediatrics floor. I wanted to be in the pediatric oncology unit but I was not sure if I would be ready. When a position became available, someone said to me, “If you don’t take this job, who will? Someone that doesn’t know what these families are going through.” Today I am a pediatric nurse at Palm Beach Children’s Hospital – St. Mary’s Medical Center. In my role as a nurse, parents often ask me, “Why? What did we do? Why does a child get a disease like this?” After I tell them my story, they say, “You get it. You know what we are going through.” I feel as if I am making a difference in their lives by sharing my family’s journey.

My family and I also donate our time to support finding cures for childhood cancer. For the last three years, I have served as chairperson of CureSearch’s West Palm Beach Walk in Florida. Anytime we can educate others about childhood cancer or advocate on behalf of these children and their families, we do.

CureSearch is the only charity my family supports because of its commitment to funding childhood cancer research. We need targeted treatments so we can get cures off the bench and to the bedside. Our family owes the treatments that saved Kate’s life to previous investments in research. I value CureSearch’s work because I want every child with cancer to be guaranteed a cure, and the only way to do this is with research.

Mary Prokop
Mother of Kate
Chair, West Palm Beach Walk 2012 – 2014

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