Female Factor illuminates reality of childhood cancer

Published 3:00 am Thursday, September 10, 2015

MESSENGER PHOTO/COURTNEY PATTERSON Dr. Nola Earnest, pediatrician at SARHA spoke to Female Factor about the facts of childhood cancer.

Dr. Nola Earnest, pediatrician at SARHA spoke to Female Factor about the facts of childhood cancer.

As September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the Female Factor program on Wednesday focused on the issue, informing the attendees of the severity of childhood cancer and showing how it effects everyone.

“I don’t think you could walk into a room in the United States and not meet someone who had been touched by cancer in some way,” said Dr. Nola Earnest, pediatrician at SARHA, “That’s because one in every four deaths is attributed to cancer.”

Earnest shared statistics and information about the different types of cancers and their prevalance.

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“Most kids are healthy,” Earnest said. “But when kids do die, it is cancer that is going to claim them. At least one out of 320 children will be diagnosed with cancer before they are 20 years old.”

Earnest said the very reason that she became a pediatrician is because every child is “worth it.” Every child is worth fighting for.

Christy Steltenpohl, another special guest at Female Factor, watched and fought alongside her daughter, Lindsey, who battled a brain tumor.

“We were told the day she was diagnosed that we would be lucky to have 9 to 12 months,” Steltenpohl said.

Not being able to be with Lindsey during treatments was something that Steltenpohl said was extremely hard.

“We would have to walk out and put a thick door between us because we can’t be exposed to radiation like that, but I had to leave my child on a table to sleep so that she could,” Steltenpohl said.

Despite the hard times, Steltenpohl said she and her family made sure to do anything they could to give Lindsey a happy life.

“We worked really hard to give her every day something to be happy about and something to smile about.”

Steltenpohl said smiling was something that Lindsey never lost the ability to do, even when her body stopped working.

“She always found a way to smile,” Steltenpohl said. “She was the same person inside her head as the day she was diagnosed, but her body wouldn’t work.”

“It is not a rare situation, and it happens more often that we would like to think,” Steltenpohl said. “Your chances of winning the lottery are one in 175 million, but the chances of your child having cancer are one in 255.”

Steltenpohl said that 46 children are diagnosed with cancer each day, and seven children die each day from it.

“You have your whole life planned out, but the next day you are in the hospital,” Steltenpohl said.

Lindsey was diagnosed in April 2011 when she was 5 years old. While they were lucky to push the maximum 12-month life expectancy to 16 months, Steltenpohl hopes to share Lindsey’s story to make more people aware of the issue. “We want to see a different outcome for kids in the future,” Steltenpohl said.

The message resonated with hosts and guests at the Female Factor luncheon on Wednesday.

Cancer sucks out joy,” said Dianna Lee, advisory board member. “It sucks out piece of mind and, if you let it, it will suck out hope. It doesn’t care if you are male, female, black, white, old or young. Cancer is always a horrible thing, but it seems especially cruel when a child is diagnosed.”

For ways to support and/or donate to research for childhood cancer, visit the Lindsey’s Legacy Facebook page to see how to get started.

Female Factor, sponsored by Troy Regional medical Center, among other local sponsors, holds a meeting the second Wednesday of each month at noon in The Studio in Downtown Troy.