My name is Megan Ward and I’m the mother of not one, but two children diagnosed with childhood cancer — one being amongst the rarest types of cancer in the world and the other the most common.
In 2002, my oldest daughter, Mollie, was diagnosed with pancreatoblastoma, an extremely rare pancreatic cancer.
At the age of 15 months, Mollie was treated at both CHOP and the National Institutes of Health. She endured 38 rounds of experimental Phase I chemotherapy, several surgeries and two relapses before we finally heard the words “no evidence of disease.”
Mollie is a survivor. It's a bond, unbeknownst to us at the time, that she would soon share with her sister.
In May 2010, a familiar fear began to settle in. This time my concern turned to Mollie’s little sister, Grace. She was pale ... and mother’s intuition prevailed.
Blood work and a bone marrow biopsy confirmed my worst fear. Grace was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at the age of 2½.
All of our healing felt undone, and all of the old wounds ripped open as our worst nightmare came true — again.
We were forced to pick up the pieces of our shattered life once again and embark on yet another journey through cancer with the same destination: cure.
Finding a way to give back
After each diagnosis, we trudged through the different phases of grief, each time coming out the other side wishing we could give back to CHOP for saving our daughters’ lives.
Yet the idea of pursuing our own foundation was, and honestly still is, overwhelming.
However, the Parkway Run & Walk seemed like the perfect venue to raise money and awareness for CHOP’s Cancer Center.
What started out as Team Mollie has now evolved into Team Mollie & Gracie, a team of family and friends that has grown exponentially in size as well as donations each year. Each year, as we recruit sponsors for team T-shirts, send out emails and put up posters advertising the Parkway Run, we’re constantly inspired by everyone’s willingness to help.
Every September, we gather on the Parkway under the Team Mollie & Gracie tent to celebrate the lives of our girls, and are surrounded by thousands of people whose lives have also been touched by childhood cancer. Our success in the Parkway Run served as a stepping stone for other advocacy efforts and opened some amazing doors of opportunity for us as well.
Last September, Mollie had the chance to tell Congress and ABC World News Tonight her story. We went to Capitol Hill to help Mollie’s oncologist, Peter C. Adamson, MD, push lawmakers to encourage pharmaceutical companies to research and develop new drugs for children with cancer.
For her advocacy efforts, Mollie was featured on World News Tonight and was even named “Person of the Week” by Diane Sawyer.
We never set out to become parent advocates of childhood cancer, yet my family and I are forever grateful for these life-changing experiences that have facilitated the healing process and helped us through the painful times in our lives.
Although each opportunity felt like an overwhelming proposition at the time, we persevered and as a result have found our voice in the fight for a cure for childhood cancer. That voice has been heard loud and clear … on the Parkway in Philadelphia, on Capitol Hill and even on ABC News.
Maya Angelou once said “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
We’ve shared our story ... now it’s your turn.
Please consider sharing your story to raise awareness of pediatric cancer and the need for additional funding for research. It takes as little or as much time as you choose, and will make a tremendous difference for your own family and those who must endure this journey through cancer in the future.
Share your story on Facebook, with your local newspaper, with your elected official. Take that first step toward being an advocate for children with cancer. You never know where that road may take you!
By Megan Ward, September 2011