14-year-old Autumn Cameron from Bloomington lays curled up in her hospital bed. Her eyes are closed as she strokes the hand of her mother, Angela Reed. When Angela moves her hand away for a moment to rub her eyes, Autumn protests, “Mommy!!” Angela quickly reaches back down and strokes her daughter’s hand, then her bald head. “She’s a lovable kid who loves to give hugs and kisses,” Angela explains. “She wants you to cuddle up next to her.”

Autumn was born with developmental delays and has undergone many forms of therapy since early childhood. When she began complaining of leg pain in the spring of 2013, her family first chalked it up to growing pains. But when she started limping, they brought her to their pediatrician. An MRI, then a biopsy led to a difficult diagnosis: Autumn had osteosarcoma, a cancer affecting the bones, and also a tumor in her lung. Her family chose Riley Hospital for her treatment. “If it wasn’t for Riley, I don’t think she’d be here,” says Angela. “I wouldn’t pick another place to bring my child.”

Autumn recalls the tough recovery after her first surgery in May 2013, in which Riley surgeons removed her lung tumor and performed a bi-lateral bone marrow aspiration. “I had to have a chest tube,” Autumn explains. “I could not move for like, a week!” Then, Autumn began her 30-week chemotherapy treatment. She fought her way back to health after facing a blood infection, and had surgery to remove 90% of her right femur. It’s been a long, tough road, but fortunately, Autumn has been in remisson since February 11, 2014. She has returned to school and plans to attend the Riley Cancer Center Prom in May. Autumn and her family are grateful for the many caring staff members who have helped them stay positive and courageous, including Child Life specialists, nurses and doctors.

Through their ordeal, Angela has done her best to stay strong for her daughter. But there’s one topic that she can’t speak about without tears: the generosity of all those in the community who help kids like Autumn by supporting Riley Hospital. “You don’t know what each donation means,” says Angela. “If you can save a life and keep a family together then that’s the best gift you can ever give.”

 

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