‘He had a really rough go. Joe is our youngest child. Neuroblastoma is a really crappy cancer to have.’: Mom says her son is ‘doing beautifully’ after battling stage 4 neuroblastoma

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“‘Joe is our youngest of three. He was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma – he had a really rough go. Neuroblastoma is a really crappy cancer to have. He finished treatment in January of 2017, so he’s almost three years off, and doing beautifully. We’re really grateful.’

This is just one mother who has witnessed her precious child battle childhood cancer, something no family ever expects to face.

‘I’m going to play soccer and baseball in the fall,’ her son Joe said, now in post-treatment.

Courtesy of Dunkin’ Brands

I’ve heard the same statistics you probably have: 43 children are diagnosed with cancer every day. One in 285 kids will be diagnosed by the time they turn 20. They’re just numbers. Things for other people to worry about.

Until it’s your child who’s one of the 43.

I still believed childhood cancer was rare. I even believed the kids who did get cancer would be fine, assuming they were treated at the best hospitals and didn’t have any unusual complications. What I really believed, is that kids like mine didn’t get cancer.

Courtesy of Dunkin’ Brands

I did not know there were childhood cancers that have a zero percent survival rate, or that there are even some with no real treatment plans. I didn’t realize that cancer hit many kids with no genetic disposition, or that a little body could be riddled with disease and show no symptoms.

It was not until I was officially a ‘cancer mom’ that I would understand.

My healthy, athletic, never-been-sick 12-year-old, Michael, was diagnosed with a rare pediatric sarcoma in April of 2016. He died in August of 2017 after the disease took its normal course.

Every September, the childhood cancer community observes Childhood Cancer Awareness month, which is represented by a gold ribbon and aims to shed light on the realities of childhood cancer. I have worked at Dunkin’ Brands since I was 8 months pregnant with Michael. A few months ago, I approached Dunkin’ leadership to consider using September to shed light on Childhood Cancer. Many brands turn pink for breast cancer awareness, but few turn gold. I was prepared to give a good business case, but instead was met with enthusiasm and more ideas. In fact, the idea was even enthusiastically adopted by our partner Waze. This month Dunkin’ will turn its social media channels gold to raise awareness.

Awareness brings resources and support, but it also honors the families who are fighting this battle every day.

It honors Joey who is 6 and is fighting Neuroblastoma, and Jane who is 3 and has Leukemia, and Hannah and Bailey who are both 5 and became best friends during their chemo days. It honors Cassie who is 20 days into 30 days of radiation, and for my daughter, Brooke, who has to grow up without her brother.

Courtesy of Dunkin’ Brands
Courtesy of Dunkin’ Brands
Courtesy of Dunkin’ Brands
Courtesy of Dunkin’ Brands

And this month we will honor the fight by going gold – by hearing their voices on our drive into work, putting a gold ribbon frame on our Facebook pictures and by making a donation. To the families in treatment, to the families who are living with the aftereffects from the cure, and to those who mourn the children they lost. This month we see you, we hear you and we will know that Childhood Cancer is real.”

This story was written by Kari McHugh, Executive Director of the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation. To learn more about the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation, click here

Dunkin’ will make a donation when Waze users download a Change Voice pack that coverts the turn-by-turn navigation to voices of children personally affected by childhood cancer. The navigation app, Waze, informed Dunkin’ that people drive more safely when children are in the car – or when drivers are thinking of family. With this insight in mind, we created a ‘navigation voice pack’ with Waze – the turn-by-turn narration that tells you to ‘turn right in 500 feet.’ Children who have been personally affected by cancer recorded the navigation voice pack so they’re with you, every step of the way.

The Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation is thankful to our partners for helping us raise awareness for this special month and for supporting our efforts to provide grants to camps dedicated to bringing joy to these young patients.

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