Children’s Mercy program helps cancer survivors

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — With more children surviving cancer, Children’s Mercy Hospital is seeking to help them with everything from school work to insurance issues.

A program started two years ago called Survive & Thrive has been growing steadily.

The Kansas City Star reported that it’s for children who have completed their cancer therapy and are well on the road to recovery.

“We’re focusing on life after cancer,” said Richard Shore, the doctor who leads the program. “Cancer is something in their past. We want them to be healthy adults.”

People as young as 6 and as old as 21 have enrolled. And about 12 patients a month are served. They can get advice from a dietitian and screenings — such as heart function and bone density tests — for the side effects of cancer treatment.

“It’s because of our success,” Shore said. “Cancer used to be pretty much a death sentence. Now we have cures, and we have more and more survivors.”

Recently, 14-year-old Megan Speiser and her mother, Carolyn Rucker, drove in from Sibley in Jackson County to take part in an outdoor party at Crown Center Square for young cancer survivors.

After Megan was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 9, she underwent surgery at Children’s Mercy, then 31 radiation treatments and 55 weeks of chemotherapy.

“I was scared,” she said. “I had heard of people having brain cancer and dying of it. I thought my life was over.”

Now she is in high school, where she participates on the debate and tennis teams. Her mother describes her as “an ornery teenager.”

Megan also works with others who have been diagnosed with brain cancer. Her advice to people fighting cancer is to “keep your head high.”

“Be strong,” she adds. “Live your life to the fullest. You never know what will happen.”

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