“I [spoke] with various lawmakers at the state and national level to work towards increasing funding for pediatric cancer research and establish a new fund in New Jersey.”
My name is Grace, and I’m from Long Hill, New Jersey. I love playing softball and doing gymnastics and dance. Since I was four years old, every time I had a birthday party, I asked my friends to donate to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Center instead of giving me gifts. When I was nine, I held a dance-a-thon fundraiser for a charity called the Valerie Fund. I’ve raised more than $40,000 and was named an ambassador for the American Childhood Cancer Organization.
Even though I helped sick kids, I never expected to be sick myself! When I was nine, doctors discovered a mass on my pituitary gland. They said I had a germ cell brain tumor, which I found out is a very rare cancer. I really didn’t have any symptoms, except that my parents noticed I was always drinking water, and my growth was slowing down. They took me to a lot of doctors, and I ended up getting chemotherapy at Newark Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, NJ. My doctors said that I should have proton therapy treatment after chemo. I received those treatments at the Laurie Proton Therapy Center at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. The treatments weren’t that bad, but I had to stop softball and gymnastics and missed part of my third and fourth grades – but the school let me keep up with classmates by a robot – that was pretty neat.
Because of my fundraising for sick kids, I was invited by the White House to attend the State of the Union. I got to sit right next to the First Lady, and the President asked me to stand in front of everyone! I also spoke with various lawmakers at the state and national level to work towards increasing funding for pediatric cancer research and establish a new fund in New Jersey.
So, it’s been quite a year for me, and I’m glad life is getting back to normal, and I’m back at school and my activities. I’m planning to keep fundraising for other sick kids. My family has been so great throughout everything, and we all feel lucky that I was able to get proton therapy. I hope other kids who need treatment like I did are as fortunate.