BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) -- Great things come from horrible situations. Those are the words of a cancer survivor.
"If it wasn't for cancer we wouldn't have met," Hannah Acton, now engaged to Logan Whitehead says. Logan and Hannah both battled childhood cancer and are now survivors.
"I was diagnosed on September 28th of 2007 with AMO Leukemia," Logan said. "I was told it only occurs in like 15-20% of pediatric patients. I did about six rounds of chemo from September to Easter Sunday. Discharged Easter morning, so I got to go to church. It was an awesome day, and I've been in remission ever since."
Hannah was diagnosed at a younger age. "I was diagnosed when I was two and a half with ALL Leukemia," Hannah said. "I went through treatment for four years. I finished when I was five and a half, and I've been off treatment since then."
They didn't know each other then, but they do now.
Children who are battling cancer or who have beat cancer attend Camp Smile-A-Mile here in Alabama. This camp is crucial for these kids, even for those in remission.
Two thirds of cancer survivors deal with something post surviving cancer because of the toll treatment takes on your body. The camp is a popular place to help kids get readjusted to life during and after cancer. "Smile-A-Mile's mission is to provide hope, healing of the spirit and love for the whole family during the childhood cancer journey. Through year-round meaningful and educational programming, Smile-A-Mile helps those in Alabama who are affected by childhood cancer thrive during treatment and the years beyond." Click HERE to go to their home page.
Camp Smile-A-Mile is a special place for a lot of people. For Logan and Hannah, it's where they met! Hannah gushed that, "he was the cute little boy that sat in front of me." The two immediately became friends, but a friendship isn't where the story stops.
Now they are both healthy, young adults, and engaged! The wedding is in January of 2018. Logan is now a local firefighter, and Hannah is in school to be a nurse. She hopes to work at Children's Hospital on the oncology floor where she beat cancer. The two are so inspiring!
"This is why our families work so hard," Dr. Kimberly Whelan, Interim Director for the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders said. "This is the goal, to have all of our children become long term survivors and grow up and get to do all the things we all want for ourselves and for our children, to fall in love, get married, have careers that are meaningful, and Hannah and Logan are living that."
Dr. Whelan also runs the survivorship clinic at Children's called, Taking on Life After Survivorship.
"The numbers that we see in that clinic have grown substantially over the past several years to the point that we've had to increase the number of clinic days from one day to three days a week that we are seeing our survivor patients," Dr. Whelan added. The rates have gone from 50% to 84% over the past two decades. I asked her why the chance for survival is much higher for children. "Is it because they are young and so they are able to fight harder? That's a really great question," Dr. Whelan said. "I think that the reason why the survivorship rate in children and adolescence is higher than what we see in our older patients diagnosed with cancer is due in part to their overall health. They come into to treatment with fewer conditions as an older patient might. 3:06 But also the types of cancers that children are diagnosed with have more favorable biology underneath that makes it more curable to chemotherapy than some of the cancers we see in adults."
Every day doctors are working to find the cure and one day ensure a 100% chance of survival. There is a way for you to play a role in this. Next time you need to renew or purchase a license tag, consider buying the Curing Childhood Cancer tag. Click HERE for details on that. The tags are $50 and $41.25 of that goes to finding a cure for childhood cancer. So far more than $3 million has been raised!!
"That was a horrible thing for both of our families to go through, but the fact that he came out of it is just amazing," Hannah says. Let's work to make more stories like this a reality.
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