By Valerie Baldowski
The 10th annual Care-a-Thon fund-raiser, to benefit research and programs to fight childhood cancer, has some local ties this year.
The event will be held Aug. 26 and 27, at the Aflac Cancer Center at Children's Health Care of Atlanta's Scottish Rite Campus. Radio on-air personalities expected to be on hand to provide a live broadcast, include Neal Boortz and Clark Howard, according to hospital officials.
One of those scheduled to be a guest during the broadcast on Aug. 26, will be 13-year-old Sarah Barr, of Locust Grove. At age 12, Sarah was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in her right femur, said her mother, Heather Barr.
Sarah Barr had 14 rounds of chemotherapy, from August 2009 through April 2010, said her mother. The tumor was surgically removed in December 2009, and a portion of her femur was removed as a result. To replace the missing bone, a segment of a femur from a cadaver was put in. Doctors installed a metal plate to hold together her femur with the segment of cadaver femur, Heather Barr said.
Sarah will not be able to put any weight on her leg until the bones fuse, and hopefully she can begin putting partial weight on the leg by October, said Heather Barr.
As a mother, Heather Barr said her daughter's diagnosis of cancer affected her profoundly.
"It's obviously something no parent ever wants to hear from the doctor," she said. "[There were] a lot of tears, a lot of speculation what will it mean, how hard will it be, how long will it last, will she be all right, will she make it?
"It was really weird. I was like, 'is this going to mean chemotherapy, is this going to mean surgery?'" she said. "I didn't really know what to expect at all. I had lots and lots of questions. I was really upset, and even angry a little."
Sarah said she also faced a struggle during her ordeal. "One of the hardest parts was definitely not being able to walk on my leg since last December," she said.
Sarah has a message of encouragement for other children fighting cancer. "I would like to tell them that even though they might feel scared, they will have great care and support, they will be amazed at how much people care about and love them, and that God has a plan even in the midst of this situation," she added.
Some other Henry families are also coping with cancer. Sixteen-year-old Bubba Ramsey, of McDonough, was diagnosed in September 2009 with two types of Lymphoma, said Bubba's mother, Amy Ramsey.
Her son is done with his treatments, and all medical scans on him are clear, she said.
He was able to resume his classes at Eagle's Landing High School, but Bubba's doctors will not consider him to be in remission until all scans are clear for 12 months, said his mother. She hopes for a positive prognosis. "We've just hit the six-month mark," added Amy Ramsey. "So far, everything's looking good. It's the scary point."
Sixteen-year-old Kera Parr, of McDonough, was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma in June, after a bone biopsy detected cancer in her femur, said her mother, Belinda Schofill.
Doctors will do a partial hip replacement, and insert a steel rod in her femur, said Schofill. Surgery is scheduled for October.
Kristin Connor, executive director of Cure Childhood Cancer, emphasized the need for continued research to find a cure. "Cancer remains the leading cause of death, due to disease, in children and adolescents, and research into cures holds the hope for children battling cancer today, and those [ in days] to come," said Connor.
"Cancers, which affect children, are completely different diseases than cancers affecting adults, yet less than 2 percent of all federal funding for cancer research is directed toward solving cancers affecting children," she added. "Children with cancer must rely on community organizations and generous citizens to support research, and give them a chance to grow up."