SEATTLE — Christine O’Connell’s daughter Jane was diagnosed with a stage IV Wilms tumor when she was 4 years old. After being treated at Seattle Children’s, Jane, now 7, is cancer-free.
“We’re coming up on three years in remission, which is a big milestone for kids with Wilms,” O’Connell said. “We’re really looking forward to clearing that hurdle.”
Wilms is also known as pediatric kidney cancer, and the most common age of diagnosis is 3. Childhood cancer takes the life of 1 in 5 children diagnosed with the disease.
Lorne Muller died from Wilms just before his 4th birthday. The Muller family lives near the O’Connell family, and they became friends during Lorne and Jane’s battles with pediatric cancer.
“The childhood cancer community in Seattle is very close-knit,” O’Connell said. “You get to be really close to many other families.”
On the way to Seattle Children’s for an appointment, O’Connell was keeping the Muller family in her thoughts.
“You want so much to be able to help these people,” she said. “There’s nothing I can do to ease their pain. It’s just too vast and too deep.”
She could, though, help raise money in Lorne’s memory. Under her Seattle Children’s ImmunoMomentum Guild, she embarked on a new project: the Lorne Muller Million. The ambitious attempt to collect $1 million for immunotherapy research is well on its way, with $350,000 raised in a little over a year.
“Our job is to get the word out,” O’Connell said. “One of the most shocking things that you’ll find when you enter this journey of childhood cancer, and I’ve heard this from so many other parents, is the shocking lack of funding for childhood cancer research.”
Seattle Children’s is leading the way in immunotherapy research for blood cancers and now solid tumors. One of the main sources of funding for the research program is donations.
“Seattle Children’s is pioneering immunotherapy research for childhood cancers, and they are changing the way these cancers will be treated,” O’Connell said. “We’re going to see those changes in our lifetime, which is very exciting.”
Jane is getting ready to start first grade and is looking forward to seeing her classmates virtually. According to O'Connell, the main thing the journey with childhood cancer has taught the family is perspective.
“For our family, we know it could be worse. It makes other problems look much smaller in comparison. Look for the gifts where you can.”
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and you can help meet the $1 million goal by donating to the Lorne Muller Million on immunomomentum.com. If you aren’t able to give funds, giving blood is a great option that can potentially help a child battling cancer.