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Golden Ribbon Hero Angela’s Story

Tag Archives: Neuroblastoma

Angela’s Story

DCP_4957Today, we would like to share with you Angela’s story. Angela is a long-term survivor of neuroblastoma, a form of cancer that originates in the neuroblasts, or early nerve cells, in the nervous system of an embryo or fetus. Yet like nearly 90% of childhood cancer survivors, Angela continues to suffer from late effects, long-term health problems resulting from the toxic chemicals requires to treat and destroy the tumor. Her story shows that for many childhood cancer warriors, the journey is never truly over.

Angela’s Miracle Journey

Angela’s childhood cancer journey began on the first day of spring in 1973, just after her third birthday. During a routine well visit, her pediatrician became concerned after examining her abdominal area. He suggested that Angela and her family go immediately to Henrietta Egleston Children’s Hospital at Emory University for x-rays and a CT-scan. The diagnosis was devastating: stage 3 neuroblastoma, a malignant tumor growing between the abdominal aorta and the kidney. Even for Angela’s father, a general practitioner and former employee at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, the next few days were a blur; years later, Angela’s parents still find it difficult to recount what happened during those days with any clarity.

Treatment for neuroblastoma involved surgery and a year of chemotherapy. Initial scans of the tumor had shown it to have reached stage 3, meaning that it had begun to grow and spread to areas adjacent to the original growth site. In most cases, stage 3 neuroblastoma is extremely difficult to remove entirely through surgery. Yet in Angela’s case, because of the quick thinking of her pediatrician, her neuroblastoma was caught before the onset of symptoms and before it became widespread. Her oncology team was able to successfully remove the entire tumor. In Angela’s own words: “Today, when I see someone who knew what I endured, they say I’m a miracle child and that my life is a miracle!”

Late Effects of Childhood Cancer

Angela endured a year of chemotherapy treatments when she was only three years old. Chemotherapy works by targeting deadly drugs at and near the site of cancerous tumors. These drugs kill cells that are in the process of growing and dividing. Because cancer cells grow and divide more quickly than normal tissue, they are more susceptible to the drugs than healthy cells. Yet children like Angela are still growing and developing, so chemotherapy treatments designed for adults can have devastating, long-term repercussions on the young bodies of childhood cancer patients.

At some point in her adult life, Angela realized that she was having trouble with both her short- and long-term memory. In fact, she cannot state with any certainty when she began to notice that her memory was problematic. By 2008, however, she could no longer ignore the problem, so she and her father visited her oncologist, who informed her that memory loss was a common side effect stemming from the toxicity of childhood cancer treatments. “Chemotherapy took away my ability to drive a car and I’m battling daily problems with memory lapses.”

In March 2011, Angela celebrated her 34-year “cancerversary”, but it was a bittersweet anniversary at best, because in addition to ongoing memory problems, Angela was also battling serious dental issues and problems with her teeth, another very common side effect for children who have undergone lengthy chemotherapy treatments. And just under a year later, Angela was diagnosed with yet another late effect involving an “imbalance disorder.”

It is still very difficult for Angela to think about write about these health problems, to understand why, after so many years, she continues to face ongoing medical issues stemming from a disease she fought more than 35 years ago. And yet she understands that she must face each new battle with the same determination with which she fought cancer: “And so… with lots of help, love, encouragement, strength, prayers and support from my awesome and beautiful friends and family…my life, though very different now, I still go on! One day at a time…one hour at a time!”

About the American Childhood Cancer Organization

The American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) is a non-profit charity dedicated to helping kids with cancer and their families navigate the difficult journey from cancer diagnosis through survivorship. Internationally, the ACCO is the sole US member of Childhood Cancer International (CCI), the largest patient-support organization for childhood cancer in the world. Here in the United States, the ACCO promotes the critical importance of ensuring continued funding into new and better treatment protocols for childhood cancer.  And most importantly, the ACCO is focused on the children: developing and providing educational tools for children fighting cancer and their families, empowering them in their understanding of childhood cancer and the medical decisions they must make during this difficult journey. All of ACCO’s resources are available free of charge for families coping with childhood cancer.


For additional information about childhood cancer or on the ACCO, or to order resources for you or your child, please visit our website at



For more information about the American Childhood Cancer Organization and how we can help, call 855.858.2226 or visit:

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When we hear the word “cancer”, most of us immediately think of adult cancers, the ones at the center of glamorous media campaigns, well-publicized fundraising drives, and focused research efforts, such as breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, just to name a few. When we hear the words “childhood cancer”, most of us probably think of those same cancers, just in miniature, and assume they have the same causes and the same treatment protocols. In fact, childhood cancers are very, very different than adult cancers, and require very different, specialized treatments.

Childhood cancer” is a general term describing more than 12 different types of cancer, each of which has numerous sub-types, and each of which requires precise treatment protocols tailored to the small, still-developing bodies of children. The American Childhood Cancer Organization is dedicated to raising awareness about the unique challenges presented by childhood cancer, and the desperate need for new and better treatment protocols that will target these dangerous cancers without the permanent and disabling late term effects that are the all-too-common result of treating childhood cancers with drugs developed to cure adult cancers. We encourage you to read about these most common forms of childhood cancer below, and support the ACCO in its mission to improve the lives of children facing this dreaded disease.

Childhood Leukemia

Leukemia is the most common form of childhood cancer, covering more than 30% of all childhood cancers. Leukemia originates in the soft inner part of the bone—the marrow—which is responsible for the development of blood cells. It usually affects the development of white blood cells that are responsible for fighting infection, compromising the body’s ability to fend off disease and heal itself, but leukemia can develop in other types of blood cells as well. The two most common forms of leukemia in children are Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) and Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). The good news is that treatments for childhood leukemia have greatly improved in the past decade, and the five-year survival rate is now over 85% for ALL, and over 70% for AML.

Central nervous system and brain tumors

This is the second most widely seen cancer in kids, making up approximately 26% of all childhood cancers. There are several categories of brain tumors and the treatment and prognosis of each of the type is different, depending on a variety of factors including where the tumor is located, the areas of the brain and/or nervous system it is affecting, and how quickly it is growing. It has been observed that children who suffer from such cancer tend to develop tumors in the lower portion of their brain, such as the cerebellum, or the spinal column. Such tumors can cause trouble with object handling, dizziness, blurred vision, vomiting, nausea and headaches.


This type of childhood cancer starts in nerve cells inside a developing fetus or embryo, and grows into tumors in nerve clusters. While neuroblastoma can develop in any part of the body, it is most commonly found in the abdomen. It is by far the most common form of cancer in infants, and is usually diagnosed between the ages of 1 and 2, although can be diagnosed in children as old as 10. Unfortunately, early diagnosis is very difficult, and in 2 out of 3 cases, the disease has already spread to the lymph nodes by the time of diagnosis.

Wilms Tumor

Wilms Tumor develops in or near one or both kidneys, and may even begin developing while the children is still in the womb. It is usually diagnosed in children between the ages of 3 and 4 years old, and is rarely seen in kids above 6 years old. It usually shows as a lump or swelling in the abdomen. The child may often have other symptoms such as poor appetite, nausea, pain, and fever. Wilms Tumor contributes to about 5% of cancers in children.

Bone cancers

Bone cancers in children usually fall into one of two main groups. The most common form—Osteosarcoma—develops in the bones around the knees or near the ends of the long bones of the legs, although it does occasionally occur in the arm bone near the shoulder, the hip bone, or even the jaw. Ewing sarcoma (Ewing family of tumors) is a less common form of bone cancer, usually forming in the pelvis, the chest wall (ribs and shoulder blades), or the middle of the long bones of the leg. While both forms of bone cancer are most commonly diagnosed in teenagers and older children, they can be found in younger children as well. There are some commonalities between these two types of bone cancer, but they respond differently to current treatment protocols.

If you are interested in learning more about these or other forms of childhood cancer, if you would like to know more about the critical need for additional research into the causes and appropriate treatments for childhood cancer, or you would like to support the ACCO’s mission to support all children coping with cancer or its long-term effects and their families, we encourage you to visit to find out how you can help!

For more information about the American Childhood Cancer Organization call 855.858.2226 or visit: