Your Health: Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Published September 19th, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It's a life-changing diagnosis. Every year in the United States almost 13,000 children will be told they have cancer.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and doctors who work in children's oncology devote their life to helping kids beat incredible obstacles.
For some who work at the UF Health Pediatric Cancer Center, they'll literally go to the ends of the earth if it means helping their patients.
Dr. Bill Slayton works in pediatric oncology. Typically his work brings him to the hospital, but this summer it brought him somewhere very different.
"You don't think initially that you're going to be able to do it," Slayton says, "you eventually are at the top of the mountain looking down on Machu Pichu overjoyed that you were actually able to do it."
Dr. Slayton hiked Peru's famed mountain as a part of the Climb for Cancer organization. Started by mountain climber Ron Farb, the Gainesville-based charity leads treks to some of the world's most notable peaks to help raise money and awareness.
For Dr. Slayton and his coworker Barbara Bour, the trip has had a big impact on their work. Bour says, in a way, climbing a mountain made it easier to understand what her patients and their families go through as they fight for their lives.
"You just don't know what's going to happen each day or each week," she says, "same thing happened on the trail, each day we would wake up and not know what was going to be facing us."
Climbing a mountain is a show of support that goes a long way for patients like Ava, who with the help of Dr. Slayton beat leukemia.
"There are no medical professionals in the world like pediatric oncology because they are invested in what they do every day in everything," Ava's mother Jennifer Mason says.
It's a journey that has inspired both hikers and patients alike, raising awareness and hope with every climb.
"There's nothing better in the world than standing on top of a mountain looking out at the beauty of the earth," Slayton says, "and helping people is one of the best things we can do, so if you can put those two things together I think it's very worth while."
To learn more about Children's Cancer Awareness month, visit: www.acco.org.
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