NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children in the U.S. with the most recent statistics from the American Cancer Society saying about 10,400 children under the age of 15 were diagnosed with cancer last year.
And in that same statistic, globally, an estimated 400,000 children and adolescents ages 0-14 develop cancer each year.
In the years 2017 through 2022, there were about 74 million cases of cancer in the United States with people under the age of 18, and this is according to the National Cancer Institute. With a little more than 184,000 cases in North Dakota.
In recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, KX News spoke with Brooke George, who is considered a ‘mama warrior’ by several people in the community, as she advocates for her son, a survivor of brain cancer, and others across North Dakota.
George, the mom of Connor George, the now 5-year-old who survived, according to Brain Tumor Research, one of the most life-threatening cancers at the age of three.
Connor was diagnosed with cancer not too long after George gave birth to his baby sister, and she says it was definitely a life changing experience.
“He couldn’t stand on his own, he couldn’t walk, he couldn’t bend down to pick up a toy, going up and down the stairs, and he was two years old at the time and he even realized that he had these limitations, and he couldn’t do those,” George explained.
George told KX News that it all started with two-year-old Connor complaining about various tummy aches, headaches, and soon after that, dizziness.
She said, “Our minds did not jump immediately to it being something so serious, you know? We explored some other avenues first, but as time went on, we needed to get an MRI on the head.”
Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases in not only the United States, but in the world, and when it comes down to our state, according to the most recent data available from the North Dakota Statewide Cancer Registry, cancer is the second leading cause of death behind cardiovascular disease in North Dakota.
Just imagine how hard it must have been to know these statistics after you’re told your two-year-old son has cancer, right after giving birth to another child during the time of COVID.
“During treatment, only one parent could be with Connor at the same time, so when Connor was getting treatment like chemo or radiation, it was just me or my husband that went in and that was hard on Connor and on us as parents too because we needed that support as well,” George said.
In 2017-2022, there were 524 cases in Burleigh County and 331 in Ward County for people under the age of 18.
This is why George is a part of the non-profit organization Brave the Shave and The Cure Starts Now to help other children fight the deadly disease.
“This childhood cancer world opens up bonds with other families, unfortunately, it’s not a world that I wish we were in, but they aren’t alone and there’s other support that they can have,” George added.
Brooke George told KX that they traveled from North Dakota to Memphis, where Connor went through emergency surgery, which took eight hours, to have both tumors removed and chemotherapy lasted eight months at St. Jude’s Hospital.
Right now, he currently has no side effects from his treatment and is doing great as he just started kindergarten this year.