• Melissa Byrd

2020 Jensen’s Heart of Gold Scholarship goes to...

Jensen’s Heart of Gold is so proud to award this years scholarship to Gulf Shores High School Senior Bentley Kendall. Bentley plans on attending Auburn University and will be majoring in Nutritional Sciences. Bentley is graduating in the top 25 of her class with a 4.03 GPA. We look forward to what the future holds with such a bright young lady paving the way!

Please take a moment to read Bentley's thoughts on the devastating effects and statistics of childhood cancer:

Cancer: a disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body. The definition sounds so scientific but the effects are so real. According to the National Cancer Institute, 38.4% of adults will be diagnosed with some sort of cancer during their lifetimes and approximately 1 in every 285 children will be diagnosed before their 20th birthday. What these statistics are initially saying is that cancer is real and it is big (Falco, 2018). With one-third of the adults and 1 in every 285 kids developing some kind of cancer, this affects more than just that individual, it also affects their family, friends and community (Falco, 2018). In other words, cancer affects many more people than just those diagnosed with the disease. While researching the different types of childhood cancers, I was taken back by how many kids are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer. While there are several types of cancer that children develop, acute lymphoblastic leukemia is sadly taking too many lives too early. According to St. Jude, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a cancer that affects the white blood cells. It does not only affect the white blood cells but it essentially attacks them. White blood cells are like little soldiers in the body, constantly fighting infection and attempting to keep out any type of potential diseases. One develops ALL by having too many “immature” white blood cells in their bone marrow. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a direct cancer that affects certain white blood cells called lymphocytes (Ritchey, 2017). What happens is that the unnecessary cells take up the space of where the white blood cells should be and in turn, there are not enough white blood cells to stop infection or are strong enough to prevent potential diseases. In the name acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the term “acute” comes from the fact that the immature white blood cells are being produced rapidly with no room for the body to catch up (Ritchey, 2017). The immature white blood cells, or lymphocytes, originate in the spleen, liver and lymph nodes. Because children have smaller bodies and not completely developed spleens, livers or lymph nodes, ALL is more prevalent and destructive to their bodies (Falco, 2018). Earlier it was said that 1 in every 285 children will develop some type of cancer. St. Jude also states that nearly 3,000 children under the age of 20 will be diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Lochlin, 2018). This in turn means that approximately one-third of the children that develop any type of cancer are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This is an invasive cancer that occurs mostly in children ages 3-5. It has also been proven that acute lymphoblastic leukemia affects slightly more boys than girls. By race, it was proven that this cancer is more common in hispanic children followed by caucasian children and then children of African-American descent. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia affects the majority of children but it can also affect adults over the age of 50 (Ritchey, 2017). Although through treatment, the risk of death is decreased significantly, age at the time of diagnosis, nutrition/overall care of the body and the subtype of the acute lymphoblastic leukemia all affect if someone passes away due to ALL. According to the American Cancer society, approximately 24% of children diagnosed with ALL will pass away from the disease. This statistic is saddening, maddening and upsetting. The fact that about one fourth of the children diagnosed with the most common form of childhood cancer is insanity. So, is there a cure for acute lymphoblastic leukemia or a way to help prevent it in our children? Research says they are trying. The American Cancer Society has stated that treatment for ALL is handled better by children than adults because their bodies can handle the more aggressive medicine (Lochlin,

2018). St Jude has also said that approximately 98% of children that are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and choose to seek treatment are in remission within a few short weeks of the treatment. Of those 98%, 90% will end up being “cured.” The term “cured” means that the patient has been termed cancer-free for at least 10 years. The treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia includes three main phases. The first phase is induction. Induction is where doctors go in and kill the leukemia cells in the blood and the affected bone marrow which puts the disease into remission. The next step is consolidation. Consolidation is where doctors rid the body of any cells that could potentially reset the body and cause a relapse. The final stage is maintenance. This is where they destroy any cancer cells that could have possibly survived the first two stages. Along with the phases of treatment are four types of treatment. The first option of treatment is chemo which is using very powerful and intense medicine to kill and stop the cancer cells from multiplying. The next option is a stem cell transplant. This is where doctors go in and replace the damaged white blood cells with donors blood in hopes of it clearing out the bone marrow. Following the transplant option, one could choose to do radiation therapy. Radiation uses x-rays to kill the cancer cells. This option has been proven to have other side effects and is not a preferred choice. The last option is targeted therapy. This is where they use specific drugs to target a specific area in the body and attack the cancer cells specifically within that area (Ritchey, 2017). In other words, acute lymphoblastic leukemia is present, common and destructive but researchers are trying their best to find a cure for everyone. I lost a grandmother that I didn’t know to breast cancer. Hearing stories about her from my dad is amazing and I can not get enough of them but she is still an influential life that I never got to know because of cancer. Before she passed, she had a life of family, friends, love and memories. But today, with children developing cancers such as acute lymphoblastic cancer this puts them at a risk of not getting to live that type of life. Every life is worth saving. Every life is influential. Every life is impactful. Even a child’s life. So, although acute lymphoblastic leukemia is one of many childhood cancers that is very damaging, people are raising concern, money and awareness to save our children from cancer in hopes of saving every child and adult from this wretched disease.

Falco . (2018). What Is Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)?: Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). Retrieved from Loch​lin. (2018). Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Retrieved from Ritchley. (2017). Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Retrieved from

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