A Heart of Gold – Grandparents Give in Memory of Madison

Maddie getting huggedEvery dollar donated to CureSearch is special to us, but sometimes the stories behind the dollar not only represent a desire to help cure cancer, but also acts as a memorial to those who have gone before. We sat down with grandparents Dean and Diane Schafer who were moved by their granddaughter, Madison, and vowed to make a difference.

As a 20-month old, Madison (Maddie) Star was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive cancerous brain tumor. Dean and Diane stood by her side as she fought the cancer for more than three years. It was a life-changing experience for these grandparents who ultimately lost Madison to cancer. Here is what they had to say about their cancer journey:

Tell us about Madison Star Schafer

Maddie had the deepest blue eyes and amazing contagious smile! She was always happy, even through all her treatments. Maddie loved the water and would love to go with her Popop (Dean) from one side of our pool to the other in his arms. She was always so sweet when her Grammy (Diane) wanted to have a photo shoot with her and her brother, Colin.

What was the family’s reaction to her diagnosis?

We will never forget the moment we were told Maddie had a tumor on her brain… we were in shock, angry, and full of “why” and “how” questions. How could a seemingly healthy, beautiful 18-month old child be so sick? The words ‘cancer’ and ‘baby’ should never be in the same sentence.

Maddie hugged

What has Madison’s cancer journey taught you?

Maddie’s cancer journey has given us a greater appreciation of the precious gift of life. Her legacy is one of strength and perseverance, her parents and doctors never gave up and neither did Maddie. Our son, Chris, and daughter-in-law, Susie, gave everything of themselves for the welfare of their daughter.

Maddie eventually lost her sight and ability to talk due to the cancer and its treatment, but she never lost her smiles, giggles and taught us to not lose hope.

What do you wish the general public knew about childhood cancer?

Children’s cancer research is the least funded age group for cancer research. More than 40,000 kids are in cancer treatment each year. In the last 20 years, only four cancer treatments have been specifically developed and approved for children. One out of eight children with cancer will not survive. These statistics are not acceptable. CureSearch is raising funds for research, clinical trials and resources for families to help improve these statistics.

Why do you choose to support CureSearch?

We started supporting CureSearch when we read that their focus was research for CHILDREN’S cancer and most of the donations go toward research and not administrative fees.

We were motivated to join CureSearch Superheroes Unite! walks to support Maddie’s parents and to help physically support other parents going through the same thing as we were. It helped us realize we were not alone in this battle. We walked in our first CureSearch event in the spring of 2011 as team leaders and have been involved ever since.

We are leaving a legacy gift in honor of our granddaughter Madison that will have a long-term effect of finding cures and treatments that might save the lives of other children with cancer. This is a gift that will keep on giving long after we are gone.

What is your hope for the future of childhood cancer?

We hope to see better funding at all levels of private and public sectors. We would like to see research and government working as one to put an end to all cancer and especially for our children. We would like to hear one day that children’s cancer research is the best funded.

Why is CureSearch and childhood cancer research important to you?

Childhood cancer research is important in order to give every child a chance at a full and healthy life. Over the last 30 years, great discoveries have been made and that is so exciting, but more can be done to help the most severe types of children cancer. No parents in the future should have to hear “your child has cancer.”

Maddie sittingIs there anything else you’d like to share about Madison, your journey or advice to impart to other grandparents whose grandchild is battling cancer?

Madison had a wonderful team of doctors, but in the end, they spoke the words you never want to hear, “there is nothing more we can do.” The parents need the love and support of the grandparents and family members and friends. Facebook and social media was actually a network of support to help spread the word of this traumatic disease. Cherish every moment you have with your children and grandchildren and know you are not alone in this fight.

Dean and Diane Schafer, grandparents of Madison Star Schafer remember Madison for her deep blue eyes, contagious smile and her always happy disposition. They have chosen to get involved with CureSearch through events and by leaving a legacy gift to CureSearch. They believe in our strategic approach to find more cures for children with cancer. Donate today to join the Schafers in funding life-saving children’s cancer research.

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