JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In the month of October you'll likely notice a sea of pink in neighborhood shops, restaurants and people adorned in the cheerful color representing a difficult struggle. But in September far and few in between you may see a hint of yellow and gold. The color pridefully worn to bring awareness to childhood cancer.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month and during that time on Good Morning Jacksonville, First Cost News is featuring local families involved in the fight to end pediatric cancer.
A lack of funding, research and awareness demonstrates a need for advocates to speak loudly during the four weeks of September and beyond. According to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation only 4% of federal government cancer research funding goes to children. Thousands of kids lose their battle with cancer every year.
"There hasn't been any new Chemos, they're mostly designed for adults and there are certain children who can not take the full dose because their little bodies can't handle it," said Krista Risher. "And if they don't get the full dose it can't kill the cancer."
Risher's daughter at 5-years-old was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer in May of 2014. Since then she's undergone a rare surgery to remove the cancer called rotationplasty.
"The oncologist removed the cancerous portion and then rotated the leg around," explains Dr. Eric Loveless of Nemours.
Loveless is a part of a crew of medical professionals, Kacey Richer, now 8-years-old, has grown to love. As he walked into the waiting room at the hospital where Kacey stood with her parents, both Loveless and Kacey's faces lit up. They embraced in a hug, she let out a giggle and the two sat on a brightly decorated bench.
Kacey's prostetic leg dangled, not able to touch the ground as she sat in Dr. Loveless' lap. He touched her leg and further explained rotationplasty, "the foot becomes the shin bone and the ankle becomes the knee."
The Risher's were initially confused about the procedure, which is only performed 10 to 15 times a year nationwide, but say they did what was necessary to save their child's life. Kacey's right leg is now shorter than her left, rotated to where her foot appears to be backwards, but she's definitely looking ahead. A typical 8 year old kid, Kacey is bursting with energy and spunk. She prefers to get around without her prosthetic leg.
"Get this thing off of me," she yelled with a smile before taking off running around the waiting room at Nemours. Her right leg trailing behind the left, she appeared unafraid, unapologetic and unstoppable.
"She doesn't know limitation, she's an everyday inspiration," said Kacey's father, Jeremy Risher. "She swims like a fish. She's part mermaid."
Kacey recently celebrated her eighth birthday. It's a milestone her parents don't take lightly.
"The fact that she's able to celebrate an 8th birthday we're so thankful and blessed for that," said Krista Risher. "We've unfortunately met many families through this journey that their children didn't get to turn eight. So it is a significant blessing that we do not take for granted. We live life everyday to the fullest because tomorrow is not promised. It's very difficult and we need funding to do more research to save our babies."
Risher is a part of the Pediatric Cancer Family Foundation, they help to meet the needs of families whose children are battling cancer.