In 1987, Joe Coleman was busy raising a four-year-old son, Joseph Jr., and Shannon, his two year-old daughter who was, as most toddlers are, extremely energetic and excited by her boundless ability to jump, skip and run faster and higher with each day.
Then, suddenly, one morning Shannon began limping. It would be the first step on a rocky path she and her family would stumble down together and one that would change the course of their lives in ways they could never have imagined.
At the age of two, Shannon was diagnosed with an acute case of leukemia, and her family was given a grim prognosis for her future. At that time Dr. Ragab, founder of CURE Childhood Cancer, was on staff at Egleston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Ragab introduced Joe and his family to a support system which became an integral part of the family’s survival.
“During Shannon’s gut-wrenching treatment we naturally had so many questions. Our fear was overwhelming, and we sought support and encouragement from people involved with CURE Childhood Cancer,” says Joe. “What we received was a support system that helped us reach a bright light at the end of our darkened tunnel.” Joe says his family received critical direction and vital emotional support from CURE during the most difficult period of their lives.
In 1988, Joe joined CURE’s Board of Directors, and he has been an active part of the organization ever since. “I went to too many funerals of children who fought the battle and lost, unlike Shannon who won her battle against cancer, and I knew I had to stay involved with an organization which dedicates more than 90 percent of money raised to research and patient and family support,” Joe notes. “I truly believe we must continue to fund pediatric cancer research and, by doing so, we will find a cure for childhood cancer in our lifetime.”
Throughout Shannon’s three arduous years of treatment, Joe’s family not only benefited from the many resources CURE Childhood Cancer offered, but through CURE, they found hope and encouragement when they were wrought with fear that Shannon wouldn’t survive, much less live to be a thriving adult. Today, Shannon is currently studying to receive her Master’s degree in Autism & Behavioral disorders from Auburn University.
“I vividly remember wondering, when Shannon was ravaged by needles and nauseating chemotherapy, if I would be blessed to walk Shannon down the aisle on her wedding day,” Joe muses. Twenty-one years after her treatment, Joe will get his chance to do just that, as he will be Shannon’s escort down the aisle when she marries on June 19, 2010.
CURE Childhood Cancer pays tribute to Joe’s dedication and long commitment to fighting childhood cancer.