PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Thursday is CBS3’s 13th annual “Alex Scott: A Stand For Hope” telethon. The money it raises makes a difference in many lives. One boy is alive and thriving because of a discovery that happened with the help from the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
Philip Steigerwald has been through a lot, more than any 5-year-old should. For a while there, it appeared the result would be his parents’ worst nightmare.
“Right before his third birthday, Philip woke up and was walking with his head tilted to the side,” said Philip’s mom Wendy Steigerwald.
After a diagnosis of mono, he was scheduled for a tonsillectomy.
“So February of 2017, we went in for a routine tonsillectomy and that was the worst day of our lives,” his mom said.
They were told that an almond-sized tumor was found behind Philip’s right tonsil. One week later, Philip started his first round of chemo, which was rough on his body and on his parents.
He had five rounds of treatment and then scans to see how the cancer responded.
“They called us into a room and they just shook their heads and said it looks like they had given him water, because he had even more cancer,” Philip’s mom said. “I was hysterical, I couldn’t even comprehend what they were saying. All I could remember is Jeff saying will he make it to childhood and they said no.”
Their next option was more chemo and an antibody treatment.
Every three weeks the Steigerwalds would go into the Intensive Care Unit for a week at a time. After nine long months, even though the treatments were working, doctors said they were holding back the cancer.
That’s when doctors recommended the family come to Philadelphia to see Dr. Yael Mosse, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“The focus of my lab is ultimately to find better, more precise therapies for children with neuroblastoma. When our standard therapies fail them, we have a very laser focus on a gene called ALK gene,” said Dr. Mosse. “We call it the ALK gene, we first discovered it’s very important role in neuroblastoma here in CHOP in 2008 with the help of the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.”
Philip’s tumor has a mutation of the ALK gene and so he fit right into Dr. Mosse’s clinical trial.
Dr. Mosse says this is why research is so important, much of it funded through the foundation, started by a little girl who lost her battle but dreamed of a time when other kids would live happy and cancer-free.
“The ultimate goal is to cure kids and cure them with less side effects,” Dr. Mosse said.
For Philip and his family, the research has been lifesaving and life-changing.
“He has his life back and we have our life back,” Philip’s mom said.