Our son Andy was a very healthy and energetic 16 month old who loved choo-choos, matchbox cars, and playing with his big brother Sam. At a routine well-child check up our pediatrician felt a small soft mass in Andy’s lower abdomen. From that point on, our world was turned upside down.
When we received the diagnosis – Neuroblastoma, Stage 4, high risk – my mind had flash backs to the time when I took care of these very same children as a nurse in the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. At that time, children with Neuroblastoma (a cancerous tumor developing from nerve tissue) were given a 20-25% chance of survival and were often sent home on palliative care. Now my son would be cared for at the very same institution. My experiences became a double-edged sword. On one hand, I knew the medical lingo making it easier to understand the science. I also knew many of the doctors, nurses and ancillary staff that would be providing care for my son. On the other hand, I knew, and had even seen, what could go wrong, even with the best of care that we would receive at the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.
The treatment for Andy’s cancer includes induction chemotherapy, surgery to remove his tumor, tandem autologous stem-cell transplants, radiation and immunotherapy. In all, this treatment will take more than a year to complete and by our side the whole time will be the Four Diamonds Fund. Four Diamonds helps to ease our financial stress by paying all of our medical expenses not covered by our insurance. As you can imagine, this is a large sum of money.
My fears were quickly minimized as I learned of the advances in medicine, medical practices and improvements the hospital had made in the past decade, much of this due to the funding provided by the Four Diamonds Fund. As a nurse, I knew Four Diamonds provided essential equipment, renovations, and patient amenities. I never knew how much they provided for families with children being treated for cancer until my son Andrew was diagnosed. They provide us with meal and gas vouchers, the services of a social worker, child life specialist, dietician, music therapist and most importantly a community specific to our needs.
My husband graduated from Penn State University and remembers THON along with all the activities related to raising money for the Four Diamonds Fund. When he was in school in the early 1990’s, THON took place in White Building and broke the $1 million mark for the first time. It is funny how things come full circle. As a supporter of the Fund, now we feel the full effects of what the Four Diamonds Fund provides. One day we hope our family and son can give back as much as we have received from the Four Diamonds Fund.