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Hosted by Atlanta Braves’ pitcher Tom Glavine, and his wife Chris Glavine, the seventh annual “Tribute to our silent heroes” luncheon was held September 24th 2011. The event  paid tribute to mothers of children with cancer,  whose love and tireless dedication guide their families through an unimaginable journey. At the same time, the event raised much needed funds to support pediatric cancer research at leading children’s hospitals nationwide. for thousands of children and their families, CURE Childhood Cancer (CURE) is there to help. Please visit http://www.curechildhoodcancer.org/ to learn more.

You can read the story of one childhood cancer patient in the Atlanta area, as told by his mother below:

September 11: Quiet Hero Lea Madren

Posted by traceychristensen on Sep 11, 2011 at 09:59 AM

My name is Lea Madren, and I am a Mom Like You. My husband, Ken, and I have been blessed with three sons in three and a half years, Chip (14), Jack (12), and Bret (11). Without much previous drama, on August 17th, 2010, Chip’s pediatrician ordered an MRI for what I thought was a concussion. Ken and I picked him up from school, took him to the appointment, and our lives went from zero to sixty in about 2.2 seconds that day. We were immediately sent to Children’s Heathcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite (CHOA), where in 72 hours, Chip had two brain surgeries, MRI, and CT scans, followed by 14 days in PICU, and several more months inpatient. Chip was diagnosed with Metastatic (spreading) Anaplastic (aggressive) Medulloblastoma (brain cancer). Go ahead, read between the lines. He was in school that morning. Suddenly, words I had never heard defined our lives and people I had never met were the most important people on earth.

Chip’s diagnosis is bad. Really bad. There is no other way to put it into words. As a side effect of the main tumor resection, he also suffers from a rare complication called Posterior Fossa Syndrome. This syndrome has left Chip completely debilitated. He has spent the last year attempting to relearn everything – from holding up his head, talking, swallowing, eating, sitting, walking, using his hands – everything. He has some hearing loss and significant vision loss. Currently, he works through about 14 home therapy sessions a week to regain his function. His is making progress, but the road is still very ominous. He is still completely dependent on us for EVERYTHING.

On the cancer front, Chip underwent six weeks of cranial and spinal radiation and chemotherapy with 38 round trip ambulance rides from CHOA to Emory. Next came six months of intense Chemotherapy at CHOA with multiple admissions for infections, including another stay in the PICU. He has had several surgeries to place G-J feeding tubes, two shunts and two shunt revisions, and crumbling teeth. Over nine months, Chip spent over 130 nights at CHOA. Fortunately, we live just a few miles from the hospital and could scoot home more than most! He will have MRI’s every three months for the next several years to monitor the tumors.

With all of this being said, our family considers ourselves extremely blessed. From the first hour of our crisis, our community has completely surrounded us. Immediately, schedules were in place to handle everything peripheral in our lives so that Ken and I could focus on Chip. My two other boys were driven to school each day, helped with homework, sports uniforms cleaned. My pantry was stocked, meals delivered, laundry folded, toilets scrubbed, grass mowed, and even beds made so tight Bret found it hard to climb in at night! The Heavens were stormed with prayers of all types. There were Rosary groups, candles lit, little children’s bedtime prayers – Christian, Jewish, it didn’t matter. Everyone fell to their knees for Chip. People ask me how I do it all, and I can honestly say “I don’t know, other than I am supported from all sides.”

As our physical and spiritual needs were being addressed, groups began the process of raising money to help our family offset expenses. We are very lucky to have started with excellent health insurance to help cover Chips daunting $2.5 million in medical bills, but there is so much more than just the mounting bills. The troops behind Chip’s fight have been organized into what we call “Chip’s Nation.” Kids have hosted birthday parties, forgoing their gifts, and asking for donations for Chip instead. Camo colored wristband were made and sold $5 a piece, and we couldn’t order enough. An Adult Casino Night and a Family Camp-out both raised thousands of dollars for Chip’s Nation. Checks came in the mail from all over the country from long lost friends and complete strangers. This money is now being used to cover the extra costs of caring for Chip. We were able to purchase a therapy pool for our home to help Chip regain his strength – we would never have been able to provide that on our own.

A year later, the support continues. Meals still show up, letters arrive in the mail, and there are daily “What can I pick up while I’m out” phone calls. Even though we have made a few outings, Chip – and I – are pretty much homebound. We spend our days filled with therapists, charting medications, or Ken and I squeezing in therapy homework. Other moms help with daily chores, fix lunch, deliver the news. Brothers and visitors fill the afternoons. Some days are bustling, passing quickly and leaving us exhausted. Others creep, painful and depressing. Finding the balance of mother, nurse, wife, friend, person… is difficult. This again is where I feel blessed.

The people surrounding and supporting my family have been our lifeline. The term “lifeline” is not one I use loosely. This support has saved all of our lives. Jack and Bret have not missed a baseball game or a birthday party. Ken’s friends supply the running seasonal hunting or fishing reports. My girlfriends run my errands and visit frequently to chat. Both of our families are of course helpful as well, they have to be. It’s the friends who could have easily moved on with their own busy lives, but instead have chosen to stick around that I am so thankful. Connected to Chip’s story, we each have our own story, and each tells it a little differently than the other. However, one theme remains consistent – during this year of experiencing critical uncertainty and an enormous medical learning curve, the love and support from Chip’s Nation has completely carried us all.

Going forward, my message to other moms like me is as follows: One in every 330 children will be diagnosed with cancer by the time they are 20 years old. The chances of each of us knowing more sick kids are surprisingly high. I urge you to help those moms. Those dads. Those brothers and sisters. Support them, supply them, pray for them. Drop a plate of cookies or a case of water bottles off on the front step with a friendly note. Some days, they may be desperate for company, others unable to answer the phone. The road for the family with a sick child is uneven, unnerving, and at times, unbearable. Be the lifeline. I am eternally grateful to mine.

To learn more about CURE Childhood Cancer visit http://www.curechildhoodcancer.org