This holiday season, Friendswood ISD has chosen to support an organization close to the hearts of many in the Friendswood community: Trees for Life. Founded by former FISD parent Laurie DeClaire, Trees for Life is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for pediatric cancer research at the Texas Children’s Cancer Center.
DeClaire’s son Patrick was a nine-year-old student at Windsong Intermediate when he was diagnosed with high-risk stage four Neuroblastoma Cancer, a cancer of the nervous system. It was around Christmas when they got the news.
“No words can explain the pain of a moment when a doctor delivers the news that your child has cancer. While most people were decking the halls and hanging their stockings, Patrick was fighting to live. I remember feeling absolutely desperate for a cure,” DeClaire said. “Patrick was given a 30 percent chance of survival.”
Knowing the odds were stacked against him, Patrick decided to fight anyway.
“Patrick endured many frightening and painful therapies along his journey, but in 2013, we found ourselves at Christmas time once again. This time, stem cell transplant was the milestone. It was the last therapy doctors had in their tool kits to destroy his cancer,” DeClaire said. “Patrick had more cancer than the doctors like to see when a transplant is prescribed, but, with no other good options, we made the decision to proceed.”
The process was devasting to Patrick’s body, but still, the family did not give up hope.
“Kneeling beside Patrick’s bed, I touched the line transporting the stem cells and prayed. We needed this if Patrick was going to survive the transplant,” DeClaire said. “The Lord heard my prayers. Slowly, Patrick’s body began to recover.”
However, the stem cell transplant was unsuccessful; Patrick still had cancer. This could have been the end of the fight, but Patrick, his family and his doctors were unwilling to give up, so Patrick’s doctors made a Plea of Compassionate Use for an experimental drug called CH14.18. The plea was granted and six months later, Patrick had no more evidence of disease in his body.
For two years following his good news, Patrick was put on another experimental drug called difluoromethylornithine (DFMO). During Christmas time in 2016, Patrick took his last dose of chemotherapy and rang the bell at Texas Children’s Cancer Center – coming full circle.
“Monetary donations are important so the next generation of children can have what Patrick had: a chance at life,” DeClaire said.
DeClaire hopes that by working with organizations such as Friendswood ISD, a cure for cancer can be found.
“It is my greatest desire to see an end to childhood cancer in my lifetime,” DeClaire said. “The research doctors at Texas Children’s Cancer Center are coming up with new therapies all the time. Given the right resources, I believe the cure can be found right here in our hometown.”
Trees for Life uses an online platform where people can donate money electronically and 100 percent of the funds will be donated to pediatric cancer research at Texas Children’s Cancer Center. As people donate, a virtual Christmas tree becomes increasingly more decorated with ornaments and gifts. The campaign is centered around the holiday season due to its special place in the hearts of the DeClaire family.
“During the long holiday seasons, I ached for a cure to cancer – not only for my child but for the children of the many friends I made at Texas Children’s Cancer Center. I have seen so much suffering. I have witnessed so much loss,” DeClaire said. “I believe Trees for Life was born out of the desperate prayers I prayed during those Christmas seasons in the hospital.”
Before Trees for Life, the hospital did not have a holiday campaign, but now DeClaire has found a way for individuals can give children battling cancer the gift she said they need the most: They can give them The Cure.
“Cancer research will increase the number of children that survive this awful disease,” DeClaire said. “I have my son today because good people were willing to give the resources necessary fund life-saving research. I am eternally grateful for their gifts of The Cure.”
Friendswood ISD has set a goal of raising $5,000 across the District to be donated to Trees for Life. If you would like to donate, please visit https://www.givethecure.org/view-department. Donations will be accepted through Dec. 19.
“I never thought Childhood Cancer would strike my family, but it did. It strikes many families. Together, we can make Cancer a disease of the past,” DeClaire said. “Thank you for supporting The Cure to pediatric cancer.”