Cancer does not discriminate based on age. In fact, according to The American Cancer Society, more than 11,000 children under the age of 15 will have been diagnosed with pediatric cancer by the end of 2020, of which about 1,100 – or 10% – will die from the disease. The most common childhood cancer is blood cancer. Fortunately, there are a number of organizations, locally and around the country, who are available to help kids and their families navigate challenging times during the diagnosis, treatment and beyond.
Dana’s guests include Jeff and Ashley Bergholtz, whose daughter Kennedy was diagnosed with pediatric cancer 11 days after her first birthday.
“We brought her in [to the doctor] because we thought she had an ear infection,” said Ashley. “We went to Central DuPage Hospital and by the time we got the diagnosis, it was a few days later.” She continues on to describe the “whirlwind” of going from a simple pediatrician’s visit to suddenly admitting her daughter to the oncology department at Lurie Children’s Hospital, where she was treated for a blood cancer. Every week Kennedy would get steroids and chemotherapy for a year until she went into remission. For months later, she relapsed. After finding a bump on her head, Kennedy’s parents took her daughter back in for further treatment as the cancer had returned.
“I think a lot of kids when they have cancer, they look fine but there’s something going on there,” said Jeff. “So you have to advocate.”
Kennedy is now seven years old and with the help of her parents, doctors, and support system, she’s now in a longer period of remission. “She is three and a half years off treatment and doing amazing!” said Ashley.
Nonprofit Hitting Childhood Cancer Out of the Park
Chloe Petersen also discussed her experience with pediatric cancer when she was younger, which gave her the motivation to start a nonprofit, Hits for the Cure. Through softball and baseball games, the organization raises funds to support other initiatives that help children and their families as they battle cancer. Petersen herself was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer at the age of one when she went in for her one-year check up. For the next several years, she went through a number of life threatening surgeries that were treated with chemotherapy. However, at age six, Petersen became 100% cured thanks to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“The whole reason I wanted to do Hits for the Cure was because I was just so blessed with this talent of softball that I want other children to be able to grow up and use those talents that they’ve been blessed with” said Petersen.
Meanwhile, Stacey Wahlberg, is doing her part to help others with her work for Cal’s Angels. This not-for-profit organization is named in honor of 12-year-old South Elgin Little League All-Star Cal Sutter, who was diagnosed with Leukemia and later died from the disease. Cal’s Angels mission is “granting wishes, raising awareness and funding research to help kids fighting cancer.”
“We saw first-hand the devastation of families, losing jobs, losing homes,” said Wahlberg. “So we wanted to somehow try to make a difference. We like to say, Cal’s Angels is going to war against pediatric cancer.”
Dana Michelle is a Naperville resident who is passionate about life. Originally from the northern suburbs of Chicago, she is now a Naperville resident and a graduate of Spelman College and the University of Chicago Law School. An attorney and mother, Dana divorced in 2015, unleashing a new lease on life. She has a live radio show on intellectualradio.com on Wednesdays at 9pm and is excited to bring that show to television audiences on Naperville Community Television each month.
Previously, Dana has appeared on “He Said She Said” with Wanda Bee, “The Drive at 5” with Roman, and “Jaw Jackin” with Bob and T.C., and she was a relationship advisor on the “Gift of Gab Show” with Gabby Smith.