Cells, Gels and Mice

September 4, 2012
Topics: Pediatric Research, Cancer (oncology)

My body felt numb. My mind was racing, yet hardly able to process a thought. I finally regained the ability to speak and slowly said, "This is serious, right?" The doctor, who had just delivered the devastating news that my toddler son had leukemia, gave me an answer I'll never forget. "Thirty years ago this would have been a death sentence. Today it's a long road, but it can be treated." His words swirled in my head. A death sentence? Thirty years? That's not very long - is this really now a treatable cancer. This is cancer, right?

Over the next three years, my husband and I learned more than we ever cared to know about acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Our son received chemotherapy, steroids, spinal taps and bone marrow biopsies. When I tell you that this treatment regimen was down to a science, I mean it.

Science was never one of my favorite subjects in school. But I certainly appreciate it more now. Because of amazing medical research programs including those at Riley Hospital for Children, my son's prognosis is great. Thirty years ago, only a small percentage of children diagnosed with A.L.L. survived. Today the survival rate is over 85%. That is an astounding statistic. And what's more, as a mother of child who is surviving leukemia, this statistic looks to me like a precious, happy and healthy 2nd grade boy.

Recently, I was given the opportunity to hear one of the Riley doctors explain the medical research that he and his colleagues perform at Riley. Dr. Wade Clapp calls himself a "cells, gels and mice kind of guy." I don't even like mice or know much about cells. My only knowledge of gel is from my "big hair" days in the early 90's. I can't wrap my mind around the technical details of what this research entails, but I don't have to. I am able to wrap my arms around my little boy.

Riley claims that "Hope Happens Here" - and I believe it is largely due to the medical research that also happens at Riley. And although it's impossible to truly express my gratitude to these "cells, gels and mice" folks," I want to try: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have given my family, and others like mine, a priceless gift. Hope, and research, do happen at Riley.

To read more about Riley's research programs through the Wells Center for Pediatric Research, visit http://www.wellscenter.iupui.edu.

Christy Cabe

Christy enjoys telling a good story in hopes that the reader will “walk away encouraged and inspired to grow in their love for God, and for others.” She has a degree in educational ministries from Huntington University, drinks coffee every morning, and lives in Fort Wayne with her husband, Kraig, and their three children. Christy recently published a memoir, “Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels.”

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