On Jan.4, Justine Seibel, a sophomore at Fort Mill High School, celebrated a big win.
After two and a half years of chemotherapy, sometimes as often as three times a week, Seibel was officially in remission from leukemia.
It was cause to celebrate, said her mom, Christine Farinick, but the celebration was short-lived. Seibel has one more bridge to cross before she is fully healed.
As a result of her treatment and the high doses of steroids Seibel received during treatment, “her bones actually died,” Farinick said. “They did grow back, but it destroyed her weight-bearing joints.”
Seibel needs a cartilage transplant and bone graft transplant in both knees. She is on a donor list and awaiting the transplant, which will take place in Chicago. The recovery is long, Farinick said.
During the months of recovery, she won’t be able to put any weight at all on her knees. But the surgery is critical to Seibel’s quality of life.
“It’s severe pain that she goes through every day,” Farinick said.
For children like Seibel, more research has to be done to create cancer treatments that won’t cause secondary harm, Farinick said.
This isn’t an uncommon problem among childhood cancer patients, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization. Especially for adolescents, the effects of treatment can create secondary issues. Two thirds of patients who survive face a chronic health condition, including secondary cancers, lung damage, infertility, hearing loss and lung and heart damage.
“Justine was very lucky. There was a standard protocol for leukemia. But had there been more research, maybe there would have been a different protocol for female adolescents,” Farinick said. “There could have been a different outcome.”
In an effort to raise funds and awareness, Farinick has joined Mrs. South Carolina Strawberry Queen Dana Boutwell in her efforts to bring National Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month to the Fort Mill and Tega Cay communities.
Boutwell organized 30 Days for a Cure, a month-long fundraiser where each day for the month of September spotlights a business that has agreed to help Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Boutwell encourages residents to support the Cookie of the Day businesses that have offered donations or a portion of the day’s proceeds toward the nonprofit organization.
The funds raised for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer are given to five pediatric cancer centers to support the development of cancer treatments.
Already, township residents are flocking to local business to support the effort. More than $500 was raised at “Cookie of the Day” Nest Furnishing on Sunday, and last week nearly $300 was raised at Culver’s and $355 from a cookie sale at The Peach Stand.
“One child’s life. You can’t put a price on that,” Farinick said.