GRAND RAPIDS — Did you know childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 14? Even more startling, 43 children in the United States are diagnosed with cancer every day. September is childhood cancer awareness month, but for those families impacted by childhood cancer it’s a reality they face every day.
Trevor VanSkiver was just two years old, when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“I always felt as though childhood cancer was rare and that's until it happens to you. And after watching Trevor go through his treatments, he went from this healthy two year four month old boy, healthy appearing anyway, to barely being able to sit up on his own. He lost his speech, his speech became slurred. All he wanted to do was lay on me, and was extremely sick,” said his mom, Susie VanSkiver.
Today, Trevor is almost 16 years old. But he is more than your typical teenager, he is a survivor, a fighter.
“I feel like going what we went through, watching him suffer day to day, some of the days felt like months and years and after feeling so helpless and just hoping and praying that our son would make it through this. And by the grace of God he did.I feel like we live life differently. We do we live life big,” Susie said.
Trevor said his journey has given him a passion to want to give back and has inspired him to want to become a doctor, helping the hundreds of kids everyday fighting just like he did.
Dr. James Fahner is the Division Chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Helen DeVos Childrens Hospital and for the past three decades has seen the reality, the impact of childhood cancer.
“Our clinic and our hospital ward is really still filled with children and families who are on that childhood cancer journey. We see between 45 and 50 children each and every day, in our outpatient infusion clinic for their chemotherapy, their procedures, their blood transfusions, and anywhere from 20 to 24 children on our inpatient unit being cared for each and every day. So you're right, you know, it's how many degrees of separation almost every family through their school, through their church, through their neighborhood will know a child whose life and has in some way been touched by childhood cancer,” Dr. Fahner said.
It's why the month of September is so important because families like the VanSkiver’s have forever been changed by childhood cancer.
“We know that we are lucky that we are blessed that Trevor made it out the other side of all of this and is this healthy boy. We know that there are many families, we have met many families who have lost their kids and we do not take for granted the fact that we have our son here with us today and has given us a passion. I really have this very strong passion to give back, to try to raise money to help find a cure to help families who are going through this.”
The VanSkiver’s have since started the Dream Team, a way for people to take part in 5K’s, marathons, etc. and raise money for Make a Wish. In the past three years they have raised around $100,000.
For more information about the work being done in West Michigan at Helen DeVos Childrens Hospital and how you can help, click here.