Lauren Howell works at Flowery Branch High School just north of Gwinnett. Her son’s name is Liam Howell, and he was born with cancer (Congenital Fibro sarcoma) on August 1, 2007. He had a tumor 10 cm in diameter protruding off his back when he was born, and had to undergo major back surgery at 1 ½ days old to remove the tumor. Dr. Ricketts took out what he could, but the tumor had grown through the gaps of Liam’s ribs and into his chest wall (it did not metastasize). So Liam started chemo at 2 weeks of age and had 9 rounds of chemo. At 9 months old, Liam went into remission, and has remained in remission for 17 months now. He is now entering into the realm of long-term side effects. He does not appear to have many, but one that he does have for sure is a severe case of scoliosis from where the tumor displaced his spine in the womb. He will be getting growing rods in his back to correct this, and hopefully by age 12, he will be “normal.”
All of that said, the Howell spent many days and nights in the hospital at Egleston and many Thursdays in clinic with Dr. Katzenstein. Every Thursday they were greeted by a member of CURE Childhood Cancer with a hug, handshake, activity for Liam, and a snack. Lauren Howell remembers, “There were many times on our overnight chemo treatments CURE fed us dinner or provided our little boy with a smile through play time, blankets, or toys. As I became more and more immersed in the world of pediatric cancer, I realized that CURE goes much deeper than family care, and that CURE is a huge supporter actual research to help save our children. I love that this is locally based, and that the money donated is used to help the children and their families of Atlanta. I was and still am humbled by the compassion and passion of this organization.”
Flowery Branch and West Hall High School decided to help raise money for CURE in honor of Liam and another student who battled cancer as well. Both high schools have been touched by pediatric cancer—Liam represents Flowery Branch, and Brian Ernst (recently in remission from Ewing’s Sarcoma) represents West Hall. The schools are friendly rivals, and decided to use that rivalry to raise some money. They had t-shirts made for Flowery Branch’s Homecoming (against West Hall) in each school’s respective colors. The day and night of the game, everyone who bought a shirt wore it to school and to the game. There was a sea of people wearing red and blue with gold ribbons on the shirts in support of pediatric cancer research. The local paper came out and took some pictures of students in the shirts and of Brian and Liam. Together the schools raised $2,000.00 to donate to CURE.
“It was fun and inspiring to see kids helping kids, and we hope to do something like this again next year for the month of September in honor or childhood cancer awareness month,” says Lauren Howell. “We would like for you to use the money wherever the greatest need is. I would also like to thank you so much for the Quiet Heroes’ Luncheon. It was truly amazing and a day of rejuvenation as a mom of a child with cancer.”