Stories about: Dana-Farber/ Children’s Hospital Cancer Center

Treating childhood cancer: 60 years of progress

Jean in 1968

When Jean Shaw first came to Children’s Hospital Boston in 1951, the world was a rapidly changing place. The Korean War was escalating new tensions between America and the Soviet Union, a reactor in Idaho became the world’s first electricity-generating nuclear power source and teenagers everywhere were discovering a new type of music called rock n’ roll.

Fortunately for Jean, the world of medicine was changing as well.

When she arrived in Boston to seek a cure for osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that occurs most often in teenagers, the standard treatment was amputation. It was a successful method in the short-term, but over time the cancer came back, often in a more lethal form like lung cancer. Given the severity of the diagnosis, Jean’s mother was frightened. It was a great relief when their doctor, Sydney Farber, MD, said he saw a different treatment option for the young girl.

Sydney Farber, MD

“When the doctor in our home town told my mama I had bone cancer she was terrified, because the doctor said he hadn’t known of any child who survived the disease, even after they had their limb removed,” Jean remembers. “Still, he suggested we go to Children’s Hospital Boston to see if they could help. When we got there Dr. Farber took a look at me and said there may be a different way to treat me.”

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Our patients' stories: Taking on cancer with a smile

Ariana was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at just 2 months old. Allison O’Neill, MD has been with the family every step of the way.

When Sara Cepeda’s daughter Ariana was just two months old, she made a terrifying discovery while changing the small girl’s diaper. As Sara looked down at her baby on the changing table, she was horrified to see that Ariana’s entire midsection was covered in bruises. At first Sara wondered if her daughter could some how have been hurt by a stranger without her knowing, but a trip to the local emergency room revealed that her daughter’s bruising was caused by a medical condition. Based on what they saw in a physical exam, the ER doctors suspected Ariana was suffering from either a virus or acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and made arraignments for the small girl to be transferred to Dana-Farber/ Children’s Hospital Cancer Center right away.

“I was a nervous wreck,” Sara says, remembering the long drive from Methuen to Boston. “Naturally I was hoping for the virus, but at that point all I could do was hope. I felt very helpless.”

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