NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — Northborough mom Tricia Campero knows she has many reasons to be thankful in 2013.
In August, her 5-year-old son, Christian, was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer that tends to occur in children ages 2 to 5. Fortunately, the diagnosis was quick enough to allow Christian to immediately begin chemotherapy at the UMass Medicine Cancer Center of Excellence. He reached remission in 15 days.
Christian was lucky. Decades ago, this type of cancer would have almost certainly been fatal. “There was a time when his prognosis would be awful,” Campero said. However, years of clinical trials — including many conducted at UMass — have increased the survival rate to about 80 percent.
After Christian’s initial treatment, Campero began to consider ways to give back to the hospital, including the annual UMass Medicine Cancer Walk, which raises money for the center.
“Instantly, it was something people were telling us about,” she said. “If there was a way to help the hospital and thank them for helping our son, this was it."
On Sept. 29, she and her husband, Cesar, will participate in the walk, and they are looking for supporters. They hope to raise $700 over the next few months — as well as pick up some walking partners.
It's the first time Campero will take part in a charity walk. “It’s definitely a new and exciting experience for me,” she said.
With Christian facing years of treatment, the family has up the Christian’s Courage Fund, which is accepting donations.
She also plans to give back to a number of charitable organizations that helped the family during his chemotherapy. One such organization, WhyMe, is a Worcester-based nonprofit that visits hospitals to help families cope with their children’s cancer treatments.
“It really does make a difference to the families,” she said. Sometimes the support comes in the form of coffee and doughnuts. During the holidays, WhyMe offers families gift cards and other forms of financial help.
“For Thanksgiving, we got a turkey and all the fixings,” Campero said.
“I hope that the further we get to treatment and the closer we get to a cure we will spend more time giving back to those who have helped make the journey easier,” she added.
Donations to the Christian's Courage Fund can be sent C/O United Bank, 564 Main St., Shrewsbury, MA 01545.