Research saves life of Thompson Okanagan youth
Sharon and Kevin recall that in the summer of 2009, their nine year old son Kieren’s arm became incredibly painful. His medical team was unsure of a diagnosis. They did a biopsy and a test developed by Canadian Cancer Society funded researcher, Dr Torsten Nielsen, confirmed synovial sarcoma, a cancer of the connective tissue that usually affects adults. It was a great relief to Kieren’s parents to know they could proceed with treatment. “It’s one scary cancer,” said Sharon. “When you read about this one it’s absolutely terrifying.”
Dr Torsten Nielsen of the Vancouver Coastal Health Institute, has been working on this cancer for many years. He has explored how genes and proteins are abnormal in this cancer and is testing two new classes of drugs to treat it.
In Kieren’s case they scheduled radiation and surgery immediately following the diagnosis. Things happened very fast. Kieren, who is now 11, remembers he had a big operation and now shows people his large scar. “They figured out I had cancer because of this guy, Dr Nielsen.” Kieren has visited Dr Nielsen, who is also a clinician, in his lab.
Kieren, his sister Hannah and his parents took part in the Canadian Cancer Society’s summer recreation program, Camp Goodtimes, at Loon Lake in Maple Ridge. “Camp Goodtimes made a huge difference for both our kids in terms of getting them back to just being kids.” This highly acclaimed program offers a fun, empowering and unique experience. “It is one of the most special places that I have ever been,” said Sharon.
Following the surgery, Kieren was pain free for the first time that he could remember. He is an avid snow boarder in the Okanagan, where his family lives.
Although childhood cancer is relatively rare, it’s impact on a family is enormous. The Canadian Cancer Society invested $3.5 million on many aspects of childhood cancer in 2011-12. Research has led to significant improvements in outcome for children and today about 82% of children with cancer will survive.
Kieren’s parents don’t know if the cancer spread to other parts of his body. “That’s why research is so important for Kieren’s future. This has bought us time,” said Kevin. He believes that there is more progress coming through research with more potential to help children like Kieren, and encourages people to give to the Canadian Cancer Society.
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