A Hairy Situation


Today, I bring you an amazing story from a mother about her wonderful, beautiful son who was diagnosed with childhood cancer. Their story is one of hope, survival and triumph. Read on as Monica shares her decision to shave her head and donate her hair to help those who are suffering from cancer. It’s my honor to present to you Monica Marcelis Fochtman.

My son, Luke survived stage 4 embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS or Rhabdo for short) at the age of three. He has been cancer-free since October 2009 and off treatment since March 2010. Since that time, our family has been finding ways to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer research and to give back to the communities that lifted us up while our son was in treatment.

I wanted to do something tangible, obvious and direct that would raise awareness for our cause. On September 21 (my husband’s birthday), I will shave my head with 45 other cancer mommas, the “46 Mommas Shave for the Brave.” All the money raised will benefit the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which, after the federal government, funds more pediatric cancer research than any other organization. To learn more about the 46 Mommas, visit www.46mommas.com/monicamfochtman

Childhood cancer facts (courtesy St. Baldrick’s Foundation)

  • Childhood cancers are the #1 disease killer of children-more than asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.
  • One in every 330 children will develop cancer before the age of 19.
  • The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) federal budget was $4.6 billion. Of that, breast cancer received 12 percent, prostate cancer received seven percent, and all 12 major groups of pediatric cancers combined received less than three percent.
  • Childhood cancer is not a single disease, but rather many different types that fall into 12 major categories. Common adult cancers are extremely rare in children, yet many cancers are almost exclusively found in children.
  • One out of every five children diagnosed with cancer dies.
  • Common cancer symptoms in children-fever, swollen glands, anemia, bruises and infection-are often suspected to be, and at the early stages are treated as, other childhood illnesses.
  • Three out of every five children diagnosed with cancer suffer from long-term or late onset side effects
  • Childhood cancers are cancers that primarily affect children, teens and young adults. When cancer strikes children and young adults, it affects them differently than it would an adult.
  • Attempts to detect childhood cancers at an earlier stage, when the disease would react more favorably to treatment, have largely failed. Young patients often have a more advanced stage of cancer when first diagnosed. (Approximately 20 percent of adults with cancer show evidence the disease has spread, yet almost 80 percent of children show that the cancer has spread to distant sites at the time of diagnosis.)
  • Cancer in childhood occurs regularly, randomly and spares no ethnic group, socioeconomic class or geographic region.
  • The cause of most childhood cancers is unknown and, at present, cannot be prevented. (Most adult cancers result from lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet, occupation and other exposure to cancer-causing agents.)
  • Nationally, childhood cancer is 20 times more prevalent than pediatric AIDS, yet pediatric AIDS receives four times the funding that childhood cancer receives.
  • On the average, 12,500 children and adolescents in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer each year.
  • On the average, one in every four elementary schools has a child with cancer.
  • On the average, every high school in America has two students who are a current or former cancer patient.
  • In the U.S., about 46 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer every single week day. That’s about the equivalent of two entire classrooms.
  • While the cancer death rate has dropped more dramatically for children than for any other age group, 2,300 children and teenagers will die each year from cancer.
  • Today, up to 75 percent of the children with cancer can be cured, yet, some forms of childhood cancer have proven so resistant to treatment that, in spite of research, a cure is elusive.
  • Several childhood cancers continue to have a very poor prognosis including brain stem tumors, metastatic sarcomas, relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia and relapsed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

About Monica Marcellis Fochtman

Monica Marcelis Fochtman is the proud and blessed mother of two amazing children: Connor and Luke. Connor is three years old, and incredibly funny, snuggly and kind. He loves to take care of his stuffed animals and wants to be a fireman when he grows up. He will start preschool in the fall. Luke is five and a half years old and loves art. He is a talented artist and always gives me and my husband new drawings for our offices. Luke also loves Legos, tinker toys and playing baseball. My husband Sean and I have been married for eight wonderful years. As professionals, Sean and I both work with college students. Sean is an academic advisor at Michigan State University and I work at Madonna University in Livonia, Michigan. 

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