Surviving Childhood Cancer
This summer I met an incredibly inspiring woman named Alesia Shute (that’s her in the photo). When she was 7, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Throughout the rest of her childhood and early adulthood, she endured six major surgeries and several minor ones, spending months in the hospital. Today she is a happily married mother and grandmother and the head of The Alesia Shute Foundation, which has a mission of improving the lives of families facing childhood disease. She says she has dedicated her life to giving back “because I am here, because I beat the odds, and because I can.” Alesia also wrote a book about her life called Everything’s Okay: My Journey Surviving Childhood Cancer, and, timed with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a comic-book version has just been published, ideal for tweens and teens. Alesia donates a portion of her proceeds from her books to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she was treated.
I asked her what she’d tell parents whose children are facing a diagnosis. She quickly said, “Do your homework”—but added that even if you don’t like what you find, never lose hope. “I’m almost glad the Internet wasn’t around when I was going through this, because my parents would have given up. The odds were so against me, they wouldn’t have pushed for me to get the next surgery.”
Approximately 12,400 children each year are diagnosed with cancer. Their families are thrown into a world they want no part of and yet they have to quickly learn to navigate it. A book like Alesia’s can give parents and older kids a preview of what they may endure—and more importantly, a whole lot of hope.
Photo: Donna Conner.