Shaving heads to help kids fight cancer

December 22, 2009 5-year-old Brooke Mulford takes her stuffed animals and her toy medical supplies with her to Children's Hospital. This time she'll be getting one of her last cancer treatments.

It was around Christmas last year when Brooke started limping. That pain lead to doctors finding a cancerous tumor in her abdomen. It had spread to her bones. She was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.

"It was shock, you know my heart broke, it was the worst news you can ever imagine getting," said her mother Amy Mulford.

Brooke has endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, surgery and bone marrow transplants. Pediatric oncologist Dr. Mike Hogarty says Brooke's cancer is aggressive and even despite all these treatments when it comes to some neuroblastomas:

"We can sometimes make children feel well for longer but our ability to cure them is extremely poor," said Dr. Hogarty.

But there is hope. Researchers at CHOP are now able to more closely study the biology of the tumors. The hope it'll lead better treatments such as the discovery that lead to better treatment for leukemia.

"That has revolutionized the disease from one that was nearly incurable except for with a bone marrow transplant to one that's manageable with a medicine a person takes by mouth for years and years and years."

But these discoveries come with a cost. The research to help children like Brooke is being funded by 1/2-million dollar grant from the St. Baldrick's Foundation. The non-profit is known for its head-shaving events, people shave their heads in solidarity with loved ones fighting cancer all the while raising money for childhood cancer research.

Brooke's mom had shaved her own head for her daughter.

"She loved it, she started cracking up when she saw me and just wanted to keep rubbing my head."

Although Brooke has no signs of cancer now Amy knows there's always a chance it can return. She's hoping the new research will turn that around but for now, she's cautiously optimistic.

"I think her being so positive has really helped me to stay positive and keep going everyday."

And you don't have to shave your head to help St. Baldrick's raise money for research there are of course other ways to help. Click here for more information.

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