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One Step to Give to Childhood Cancer Research
"I want to be an artist. It doesn't matter (what kind). Anything where I can draw or paint," cancer survivor Zoe Pramuk said.
Diagnosed at 5-years-old, Zoe-- now 8--- doesn't remember life before cancer. Her father does.
"She had a lot of bruises, and she got tired. She was very tired--at the point where she actually fell asleep at the dinner table," Zoe's dad Chad Pramuk said.
One blood test revealed that Zoe had cancer. The good news is her leukemia could be treated at St. John's Children's Hospital in Springfield, not far from her home in Decatur.
"I had to get chemo. And they had to give me three shots in one leg, and three shots in the other leg every other like week," Zoe said.
Treatment for leukemia takes between two and three years. By sheer coincidence three months after Zoe's diagnosis, a 7-year-old friend --another Illinois child-- was also diagnosed with cancer.
"He had a brain tumor. They tried to get it all out, but it didn't all come out," Zoe said through tears.
February marked the one year anniversary of his death. Zoe's mom says he was buried on Zoe's birthday. They don't talk about it very much; it's still too painful. Through the loss and through her treatment, Zoe found one more person in her corner.
"In order to do my job I have to be an optimistic person,and part of that optimism is working with kids on a daily basis," Dr. Gregory Brandt said.
Dr. Brandt is an SIU physician, board certified in pediatric oncology and pediatric hematology. He uses humor to connect with patients like Zoe; he uses findings from research to determine which treatments are best for them.
"Long-term side effects from radiation is one of the biggest problems that we have out there. That being said we're working to avoid radiation therapy for a lot of our patients," said Dr. Brandt.
Organizations like the National Cancer Institute spend only about 4-percent on children's cancers. Nationally, one in five children diagnosed with cancer will die. In Illinois --according to testimony given to state leaders-- it's one in three. That's where the Illinois Childhood Cancer Research Fund comes in. Parents from across the state testified at the Capitol.-- asking state lawmakers to approve a "check box" on 'income tax forms' for donations to childhood cancer research.
Lawmakers gave them the nod, and the Illinois Childhood Cancer Research Fund was born. The checkbox for childhood cancer research on the Schedule G or Charitable Donations page of your Illinois income tax forms-- is the only one of its kind in the country. Any money you donate supports childhood cancer research in the state.
"When the patients are age 50 and 60, we don't know what the affect of certain medicines might do on their heart for instance. So once they're our patient when they're six, they're our patient for life," Dr. Brandt said.
Research so far shows that about 60-percent of childhood cancer survivors experience side effects like growth interruption and infertility. Some even develop other forms of cancer. The parents testified in May of 2012. Governor Quinn signed the bill in September, but the work is just beginning. In order to stay on tax forms, the Illinois Childhood Cancer Research Fund has to raise $100-thousand.
Money you donate through your tax forms can go to any organization in the state that conducts pediatric cancer research. The money is put into an account for the Department of Public Health. There is some legislation in the works to form a committee that will oversee the funds. The application process is expected to start in the first part of 2014, and money from the fund is expected to be given through grants later in the year.