Published by Alex Burkamper on Friday, September 1, 2023 in Blog
Every year, around 15,000 children are diagnosed with cancer. Those young patients are thrust into a battle that demands incredible courage, strength, and support. Childhood cancer is a heart-wrenching challenge that impacts not only the young patients, but also their families and communities.
Among the many difficult steps in their treatment journey - including never-ending doctor appointments, radiation, or chemotherapy treatments along with their respective side effects, and all while trying to be a kid – blood donors provide a lifeline for those patients in need.
The statistics around childhood cancer are both sobering and motivating. It is one the leading causes of death for children, but survival rates have been steadily improving over the years as treatments improve. Despite outcomes improving, the battles these cancer warriors face remain complex and arduous, but blood is medicine for these patients, and volunteer donors from our communities are the ones helping these cancer warriors keep up the fight.
About 1 in 4 blood products are used by cancer patients and is one of the leading causes for transfusions. Blood products are transfused to cancer patients for a variety of reasons. Some cancers cause internal bleeding or induce anemia, leukemia can crowd out healthy blood cells in bone marrow, and often blood products are needed to fight back against the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
Over the years, we’ve worked with families to share their own cancer warrior stories, and time and time again, these families share how important it was for their child to receive blood products as part of their treatment.
Hear from our Recipients
Olivia was diagnosed with leukemia at ten months old, and spent years fighting the disease. After she was diagnosed, she needed nearly two dozen transfusions.
“When she needed blood, she was not the same person,” Tracy, Olivia’s Mom said in an interview, “after she received blood, she perked back up and she had the fight in her to keep working against the cancer.”
Anemia caused by cancer saps these children of their energy, and red blood cell transfusions replenish their blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity, often bringing them back to their vibrant selves.
Olivia endured through it all and is now happy and healthy. She loves gardening with her mom and playing with her big sister. You can hear more about her story here.
Marek was 18 months old when he was diagnosed with an extremely rare brain & spinal cord cancer. He was able to endure a grueling 30+ surgery that successfully removed the tumor. Throughout the course of the surgery, Marek received three times his body’s blood volume in donated blood and kept him alive.
“When I first found out our son received blood, I was very grateful that people went out of their way to donate,” Marek’s dad said, “I knew that it was used during accidents and other surgeries, but I didn’t understand the full use.”
Learn more about Marek here.
Hudson was diagnosed with leukemia right before his 2nd birthday, and received three blood transfusions and two platelet transfusions that very first night. He received many more over the next few years battling leukemia, and like Olivia, is now cancer free.
But Hudson and his family, along with the countless other families battling childhood cancer, will never forget their fights and how blood is medicine for these kids.
“We could not have survived this journey without all of the support and blood donations,” Jessica, Hudson’s Mom said, “because in the oncology world, blood is medicine and it truly saved his life.”
How Hudson’s Family is Giving Back
Many of the families we work with started hosting blood drives after seeing firsthand how important it is for these patients to have access to the medicine they need, including Hudson’s family. Over the last three years, the family hosted three blood drives with us and collected more than 100 lifesaving blood donations, but that wasn’t all.
In August of 2023, they hosted the “Go Gold Gala,” with their community in Eldridge, Iowa with a goal of raising money for the Hudson Strong Foundation. The foundation supports families impacted by childhood cancer and advocates for advancing pediatric cancer research and blood donation.
One of our own attended the gala. Alex Burkamper, Community Development Advocate based out of the Quad Cities, spoke at the event about how blood is medicine for these patients and helped sign attendees up to donate blood.
“We wish we didn’t have these events,” Alex said, “but unfortunately childhood cancer is a reality, and it takes all of us to come together and support these brave kids.”
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and while ImpactLife recognizes September as something special, we’ve worked to turn awareness into action that makes a real impact.
Alex, and many other ImpactLife staff members, work all year to support these blood drives and help tell the families’ stories. Cancer patients need blood products all throughout the year, and they wouldn’t have access to the medicine they need without blood donations from their communities.
That is why it’s so important for those that can give. Tragedies and treatment don’t wait for September, and our communities are counting on donors like you to make sure that blood is on the shelves at our local hospitals when it’s needed most.
Learn more about childhood cancer here, download the toolkit to help spread the word about the need for blood, and most importantly, sign up for your next appointment now at bloodcenter.org/donate. Your donation could be the one that keeps a kid like Hudson in the fight.