EDITOR’S NOTE: September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, which is a time to shine the light on the realities of childhood cancer and emphasize the importance of life-saving research. The situation is urgent as incidence rates are rising and cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease for children.
RINCON — Ashley Shiell hasn’t stopped fighting childhood cancer even though her daughter, Kylie, left the battlefield a couple years ago.
She intends to follow the example of many other families who were assisted by CURE, which has supported pediatric cancer patients and their families since 1975.
I didn’t know what CURE was, obviously, until my daughter got diagnosed with cancer.” she said. “Then you are like, ‘Oh my gosh! Wow!’
Volunteers from CURE showed up at Memorial Health in Savannah two days after Kylie’s 2018 diagnosis armed with lunch for her and her mother. It was a practice that continued for months.
“CURE is amazing,” Shiell said. “They gave me this huge binder that listed different people and resources that you could reach out to. They gave out gift cards to go toward gas, which was helpful because we live in Effingham County and had to go to Memorial pretty much everyday, plus the lunches twice a week.
“It’s really hard to explain it all.”
Even though Kylie succumbed to her disease in 2019, Shiell keeps fighting because she is concerned about other children.
“At first, you think childhood cancer is rare,” she said, “but really there are so many cases right here and CURE is the only organization that I know that the funding it receives goes toward the patients and their families, plus the research for better drugs.”
Shiell said only a small percentage of American Cancer Society Funds is devoted to childhood cancer research. That is a fact that irked Kylie, she added.
“She was a spitfire,” Shiell said. “She actually had to make a video for Effingham County Middle School right after her diagnosis. I still have it on my phone.
“She explained to them her childhood cancer. She said in the video, ‘I don’t understand why the American Cancer Society only wants to only donate four percent of those funds toward kids. I mean we are kids. Don’t we deserve a chance at life? Why spend all that money on old people who are going to end up dying of something anyway.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, Kylie,’ but that’s who she was. What you saw is what you got. She was determined that she was going to help find a cure for cancer one day and she was going to be a pediatric oncologist. She was so passionate about it.”
CURE invests millions in critical research that will lead to safer and more effective cures for kids. To donate, visit https://curechildhoodcancer.org/childhood-cancer-awareness-month/.
Despite the research and other benefits that CURE provides, it also offers a sense of hope that shouldn’t be overlooked, Shiell said.
“I got introduced to other moms who were going through the same thing,” she said. “Some of the children were thriving and some, unfortunately, weren’t, but it was still like a family.”