When he was 13, our little brother, Sean, was diagnosed with Stage 1 Hodgkins Disease. We were lucky to find it early. Really lucky. We were also lucky to have access to an amazing treatment at Children's Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota.
Sean had a rough year, but made it! He went on to finish junior high, then high school then college, even get a girlfriend. All pretty undisturbed from his illness. 2015 will mark his 15th-year cancer free.
Looking back at that time, it’s easy to paint it positive. We had a lot of names for him: The Hairless Wonder, Cue Ball, Cancer Boy. Sean “enjoyed” a lot of “perks” while he was sick. All the TV he could handle, friends over all the time, the Children's Hospital eighth floor malt maker (a very sweet nurse), surprise dinners at Murray’s Steakhouse... Bacon! On Fridays! During Lent!
In reality, it was an incredibly scary year for our family. Watching our already too skinny little brother lose dangerous amounts of weight. Having weeks at a time where he couldn't speak because the chemo had weakened his immune system to the point that canker sores coated his mouth and throat. Having to drive him home from school when he would get too sick to his stomach to sit in class.
I think our Dad felt the seriousness of what we were dealing with more than most. He lost three of his brothers to Leukemia, two as children. But that was in the 50s, and those were very different times.
Cancer is the number cause of disease-related death for children, and Leukemia causes more deaths than any other type. Medicine has made incredible progress in the last half-century, in 1975, just over 50% of children diagnosed with cancer survived 5 years or more. In 2010, that number was 80%. (National Cancer Institute)
So we were also incredibly lucky Seanie got sick in 2000, not 1954. Being on this side of his illness, it feels good to say we were lucky. Looking at a sick boy and having to rely on luck is horrifying.
This experience formed the cornerstone of Hi Little One’s commitment to giving back—it’s why 10% of our profits are donated to charities that support the research and treatment of pediatric cancers. We want to support the work that has turned the tide on childhood cancer rates. The work that saved our brother.