Sean was diagnosed November 2000 with the childhood cancer, Neuroblastoma. He was almost three years old. Our family's life changed forever.
Just ten years ago only 10% of children survived this aggressive cancer. Today, thanks to the research 60% of children achieve a remission. Due to the aggressiveness of this particular cancer, the treatment too, is aggressive.
Over the following ten months, Sean endured seven extremely strong cycles of chemotherapy. A grapefruit size tumor was removed from his abdomen during one surgery and many others were removed during another. His stem cells were harvested, which prepared him for two bone marrow transplants -- a high-risk procedure. Between the bone marrow transplants, six full body radiation treatments were performed. Needless to say, Sean's mother left her career and lived by his side.
Several childhood cancer organizations exist and provide much needed help in the form of research to find a cure. Some provide a child with a once-in-a-life-time wish. Other organizations: a week at camp with other kids, suffering from cancer. Some give counseling to parents, so that they can better understand and cope with these childhood cancers, treatments and side effects. Grateful are we for these organizations.
But one organization stands out among all the others -- Tony's Gang. Tony's Gang is unique. You're probably thinking Sean was awfully busy with all his treatment during his ten months of illness that I attempted to describe for you. I must mention the other treatment that he was also subject to during this same time frame -- the royal treatment by Tony's Gang.
Our family attended four Atlanta Thrashers games, with seats in suites and visits with the hockey stars after the games, not to mention the souvenirs and autographs.
We attended Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus, front and center, I might add...and also the Big Apple Circus. When Sean's grandmother and aunt were in town, he was able to treat them to days at Stone Mountain Park, Six Flags and an Atlanta Braves game at Turner Field.
Words can't begin to express how proud our family was when he accepted a Tony's Gang medal of honor from Governor Roy Barnes. Governor Barnes recognized Tony's Gang Heroes on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol for their courage in facing these life threatening diseases and their treatments. This day included a Heroes breakfast and a luncheon, tours of the Coca-Cola museum and capitol, and, the first of several limo rides in a Hummer limousine.
Sean was a very happy little boy. Sean and our family did more activities in a year, than some families do in a lifetime. How? Two words -- Tony's Gang. Tony's Gang is not a wish, it is not a camp -- it is a lifestyle.
Sean died February 27, 2002. He was four. He was my son. Those whose lives Sean touched all miss him dearly.
Thanks to Tony's Gang, Sean lived a very full life for a child of four. Thanks to all of you who support Tony's Gang. We will have many wonderful memories that will last a lifetime in his absence.