Once you, or your child, has been diagnosed with cancer, you are plagued by an endless string of what-ifs. Unfortunately, these don't end after treatment. Of course, there is always the biggest what-if looming over your head, "What if the cancer comes back?"
For rhabdomyosarcoma patients, the majority of those diagnosed are placed in the intermediate or high-risk groups, meaning that there is an increased chance of their cancer returning. Follow-up scans often cause a lot of anxiety for patients and their families. Because, when rhabdo comes back, it is very difficult to treat. This is why it must be treated aggressively from the onset. But, aggressive treatment can have aggressive side effects, leading to more what-ifs.
Due to the intense combination of chemotherapy and radiation that many rhabdo patients undergo, latent side effects are always a possibility. These can range from infertility and growth problems to even a new, secondary cancer diagnosis. So, there is always that sense of what-if, even long after successful treatment.
With increased research into less toxic treatment protocols, the hope is that new ways can be found to kill the cancer with minimal side effects to the patient's overall health, both during and after treatment. Children who fight cancer and come out on the other side should be allowed some relief from all of those what-ifs.
Those type of results only come from the investment of a lot of time and money. And when something is considered rare, like rhabdomyosarcoma is, it doesn't always get the same attention and support of something more common. That's where Austen's Army comes in. By continuing to promote awareness about this disease, the more support we hope it receives.
Our Foundation's inspiration, Austen, is only a few weeks away from the end of her treatment. While we couldn't be more excited, we are also not blind to the fact that we will still experience a lifetime of what-ifs. Austen may not get to benefit from the changes want to help make for rhabdomyosarcoma patients, but the hope that others will fuels the passion behind our mission.