Every day in a child’s life is precious.
This is a phrase I often repeat when speaking about our children’s cancer care initiatives. Technology has accelerated diagnosis and treatment for some pediatric cancers from months down to days. To understand why this timing is so crucial, I want you to meet Brooke Hester.
Brooke is a bubbly 5-year-old girl from Kingsville, Texas who loves to dance and play. She is also currently undergoing treatment for neuroblastoma — a dangerous disease accounting for roughly 15 percent of all childhood-cancer deaths.
When she was 2, Brooke developed an unexplained limp; doctors diagnosed her with arthritis. Then her belly and spine began hurting, and doctors suspected a kidney stone. Ultimately an MRI revealed a very large tumor and, by that time, Brooke was unable to walk.
Like many families dealing with childhood cancer, Brooke and her family spent two years living in or near hospitals while she underwent treatment. Doctors would try one round of chemotherapy hoping it would work, and when it didn’t, would move on to another. This “one-size-fits-all” treatment approach is common for children.
In May, Brooke was accepted into an FDA-approved personalized medicine clinical trial for children with neuroblastoma, run by the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium. Doctors and researchers in this trial are using Dell technology to analyze massive amounts of genetic data from a child’s tumor and identify the round of drugs and precise doses most likely to have a positive impact. I am happy to report that Brooke has already responded well and in August was released to return home to Texas. She now receives therapy one day a week at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas and lives at home with her parents — and her tumors appear to be shrinking.
“There was a time if your child was diagnosed with cancer, they’d say, ‘I’m sorry, there is nothing that we can do, so go home and enjoy your time,’” says Jessica Hester, Brooke’s mother. “That is not the case now. Thanks to technology, doctors can look at Brooke’s DNA sequencing and study her genomics and within 10 days say, ‘Here are her top five drugs that we believe will turn her cancer off.’”
People like Brooke and her family are why Dell is honored to bring our technology, team member support and funding to help the fight against childhood cancer. In partnership with families, nonprofits and the medical community, we know Dell can make a difference. This year, we are donating more than $10 million to 10 nonprofits around the world supporting children’s cancer research, and addressing the needs of children and families worldwide undergoing treatment.
One of our nonprofit partners in this effort is Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), which works with Dell in 14 cities across the United States. Because many families must travel for their children’s cancer treatment, RMHC provides a “home away from home” at little to no cost for families undergoing medical crisis. Jessica lived in a Ronald McDonald House for a full year, and she says, “We would thank God for this roof over our heads, a place where we could cook our meals, a place that would not exist if not for the compassion of other people.”
You can help as well. Visit www.causes.com/dell and watch a video to learn how technology is accelerating pediatric cancer treatment. Dell will donate $1 for every viewer, up to $30,000, to the NMTRC. And to learn more about Brooke’s journey, visit http://www.brookefightsback.org/.
On Friday, June 26, 2017, Brooke died from the cancer she had fought for four and a half years – more than half of her life. The loss of the little girl from Texas, with the beautiful smile and the colorful hair blossoms, is deeply felt by her family, Dell and all at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. Brooke came regularly to Grand Rapids for three years to receive treatment for neuroblastoma. Through the foundation Brooke’s Blossoms, Brooke and her family and friends made headbands with flowers and other creative materials that children could wear when they lost their hair to chemotherapy treatments. The headbands were donated to children in 40 countries. Brooke’s foundation continues to work to make a difference for other children globally fighting all kinds of pediatric cancers.