Her Son was Diagnosed with Childhood Cancer, Now it’s Her Life’s Work
Beth Robertson, the Manager of Community Outreach at Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, shares her story of son Cameron's pediatric cancer diagnosis as a baby and why that experience changed her and her family forever. Beth has since committed her life to raising funds for childhood cancer research that has the strongest science behind it and the best chance of getting from a research lab to a child’s bedside in the shortest time frame possible.
We Knew it Couldn’t be Good
Our son Cameron was born healthy at 9 pounds, 7 ounces on September 13, 1997.
That all changed when we took Cam to his 12-month well-child visit. His pediatrician was feeling his belly and had another doctor come in. They sent us for an x-ray immediately, then an ultrasound. I recall the room being full of medical staff. We had no idea what was going on but we knew in our hearts it couldn’t be good.
The doctors saw a mass of enormous concern. We were sent to speak with the head pediatrician who kindly sat us down in his office. He asked us if we had family support, handed us a phone and told us to call them. He used the word cancer. ‘Shocked’ is the best way to describe what we were feeling at that time. The doctor had called ahead to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and told us the oncology team was waiting for us. It was a Friday and I remember thinking, “It’s after 4 pm and they still want to see us?” - They did. The team at CHOP told us it seemed to be one of three types of tumors. They would only know for certain which one, after a biopsy. They also said to hope that it was hepatoblastoma and not the other two… which were much worse childhood cancer tumors… I thought “No, I don’t want it to be any of the three!” That day changed the trajectory of our whole entire lives.
What Lies Ahead
That weekend we were sent home to get ourselves together. Crying and praying were on our agenda. We were anxious for what the next week would bring. Monday and Tuesday were labs and testing. Thursday was surgery for the biopsy. We stayed overnight at CHOP the night before surgery and that was our first introduction to what would lie ahead for Cameron and our family.
Diagnosis and Treatment
After the biopsy was complete Cam’s diagnosis was confirmed as hepatoblastoma, a tumor that originates in cells in the liver and primarily effects children from infancy to about 5 years of age. Hepatoblastoma is diagnosed in less than one in a million children. We had a year of chemo and surgeries ahead.
Cam had over 12 chemotherapy treatments and several surgeries. The last surgery at CHOP was an 80% liver resection (removal) by the liver transplant team. We were told that if didn’t work, he was going to need a transplant. He was fortunate. The surgery worked!
Long Term EffectsOver the years Cam did not experience any of the serious unforeseen developmental issues related to chemotherapy. Children treated for cancer can develop complications and long term effects even years later.
Cameron will always be followed by oncology, cardiology, and audiology. While Cam did go on to lose all high frequency hearing due to his treatments, he doesn’t let this hold him down. The chemo will have lifelong effects, but we are hopeful they continue to be minimal.
We will always be indebted to the nurses and doctors at CHOP as well as Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) for getting Cam to where he is now. We know we are blessed to still have him here with us. Our family will never give up on being there for families fighting childhood cancer. We want them to know we are not going to forget them and are working tirelessly to make sure that no other family has to experience what we had to. We share the vision of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer that no family should ever hear the words, “We have run out of options.”
Cameron is 24 years cancer free as of August 2023. He is a husband and a dad. We are forever grateful to have been able to watch him grow into the amazing adult and citizen he is today.
This summer, Beth has joined so many other supporters by taking part in the Good Cookie Challenge which runs until August 31st. Want to accept the challenge? Click here.
Submitted by Beth Robertson and edited by Rachel Roberge, Senior Editor, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer
Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a national 501(c)3 non-profit and is committed to raising funds for research to develop new, improved, and less toxic treatments for pediatric cancer — the #1 disease killer of children in the U.S.
Read more about Hepatoblastoma here.