Growing Up

One time my son Ben's oncologist, and one of our favorite people, Dr. Shih, told my wife and me that the statistics for 20- or 30-year survival rates for survivors of childhood Ependymoma (a rare brain tumor that attacked our son shortly after his first birthday) really were not available. The reason for this was simple: 20 or 30 years ago, most kids did not survive the tumor, and if they did, they probably did not survive the post-surgical treatment of "whole brain radiation."

Last week, Ben attended his first day of pre-school. It's worth noting, among the back-to-school bustle, that under the surface something really remarkable has been occurring in the last decade. Survivors of pediatric brain tumors and other kinds of cancer are showing up for their first days of school - the first generation to do so in meaningful numbers. These first-time students are a testament to the advances in cancer treatments developed through research. That research is only accomplished with help from funds raised by generous donors.

When our oldest boy went to pre-school, my wife and I couldn't believe he'd grown up so fast. When Ben went, we couldn't believe that he gets to grow up.

The staff at Riley Hospital and the radiation oncology team at the IU Proton Therapy Center in Bloomington treated Ben with such professionalism that he gets to have ordinary moments, like going to school for the first time. Ben will be with Riley for a long time, from pre-school to pre-med (not that he has pushy parents) and the very presence of him and other cancer survivors in classrooms around the country provides the best evidence yet of the great progress that has been made.

Did you know that Riley Hospital for Children is one of the leading pediatric research hospitals in the nation, with scientists and doctors working together to quickly move discoveries from the lab to the bedside? Gifts from generous donors through Riley Children's Foundation play an increasingly critical role in sustaining and expanding these research programs, from cancer to cardiology to diabetes.

Chris Edwards, Ed. D.

Chris Edwards, Ed.D, teaches AP World History teacher at Fishers High School, and is the author of several books including 'Teaching Genius: Redefining Education with Lessons from Science and Philosophy.' Chris donates the royalties from 'Teaching Genius' to Riley Children's Foundation in support of pediatric cancer research at Riley Hospital. Chris and his wife Beth live in New Palestine are the parents of two boys, Blake, and Ben, who is doing well after being treated at Riley for a cancerous brain tumor.

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