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Childhood Cancer - Emotional and Financial Toll: October 28, 2011

It’s the last thing any parent wants to hear.

“I remember it word for word when he said ‘we’re suspicious that it’s leukemia’ and everything just sunk,” says Mindy Russell.

Mindy’s daughter, Callie, was diagnose with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at three years old. Luckily, the odds were in her favor.

“The survival rate for childhood lymphocytic leukemia or ALL, is somewhere between 85% to 90%,” says Dr. Emad Salaman, a pediatric oncologist/hematologist with The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

Given the scope of treatment; medications, chemotherapy and radiation, survival does not come cheap.

“It is estimated that the cost per year is anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 in treating a child with cancer,” says Duane Wiggins, Director of Development for the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation.

Treatment programs last two and half years for girls, three and half for boys with leukemia. The emotional and financial costs are a heavy toll. That’s why the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida created Barbara’s Friends.

“A lot of families do not have the insurance coverage so Barbara’s Friends helps support families to provide the care and support that the families need through this very hard time,” says Wiggins.

More than 50% of the children treated at the Southwest Florida Children’s Hospital are uninsured, on Medicaid or have no form of payment. But no child is ever denied treatment. Even families that have insurance find it doesn’t include all their expenses. For example, insurance may not cover pain medications given during a lumbar puncture.

“Barbara’s Friends supports making sure that no child goes through that pain; that they are able to go through this whole process with as minimal pain as possible,” says Higgins.

Not to mention the cost of providing toys and videos to occupy children through long hours of chemotherapy. Things that make life more enjoyable for warriors like Callie.
“She’s our little hero she’s such a trooper, she just inspires everyone that meets her,” says Mindy.

It helps to have the support of family and friends like Barbara.