By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Did you know that less than five percent of the federal government’s total funding for cancer research is used for childhood cancers?
That’s why the work of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is so important.
It was a tough new reality for Shawna Carwardine. Recurrent leukemia was scary enough. Then the treatments made her sick, and her long beautiful hair, which she’d been so proud of, started falling out.
“Handfuls and handfuls of hair falling out falling into the tub,” said Shawna.
“Your life changes in an instant. We still don’t have a new normal,” said Patricia Quintero, Shawna’s mother.
It’s been a difficult journey for 19-year-old Shawna and her family. The treatments started four years ago and included two bone marrow transplants, which caused some excruciating side effects, including the need for two hip replacements.
“It gets tough. There’s a lot of depression and anxiety that I have because of everything I went through,” said Shawna.
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, where Shawna is being treated, are working on developing better treatments that aren’t so toxic. They’ve recently discovered a gene that is critical in fueling a type of childhood leukemia.
“The next step is to take our findings and translate them into some sort of drug development,” said Dr. Archibald Perkins, a researcher in Rochester.
He says his research is moving forward thanks to funding from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
“The advances we’ve made in treating leukemia — again, particularly pediatric childhood leukemia — have been because of charitable contributions,” said Dr. Lauren Bruckner, Shawna’s oncologist.
Now, Shawna is working on a teenage dream that’s shared by so many others: learning to drive, and with a more hopeful future thanks to Alex and her dream of helping others with the Foundation.
“Somebody’s donation — whether it be a big one, small one or anything — could be the difference between saving somebody’s life or somebody dying,” said Shawna.
Fortunately, Shawna is starting to feel better. She’s been in remission for five months.
For more information on Alex’s Lemonade Stand For Hope, visit: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/alexs-lemonade-stand