Faces of Childhood Cancer Why Comal ISD Goes Gold for Cancer Childhood Awareness
While 175,000 children ages 14 and under are diagnosed with cancer annually worldwide, more than 80 percent of U.S. childhood cancer patients are long-term survivors. Comal ISD students and families have been affected directly with this disease which is why we have gone gold for September and ask everyone to wear gold on Wednesday, Sept. 26.
Here are a couple of student stories.
Maureen ‘Mo’ Colligan just turned 13, and she has been fighting cancer for almost two years. Her initial diagnosis of Ewing sarcoma temporarily sidelined her soccer career, but her positive nature and dry sense of humor have remained strong even after receiving her second cancer diagnosis of leukemia in May.
Currently, a seventh grader at Mountain Valley Middle School, Mo was looking forward to getting back on the soccer field this year when she was diagnosed with B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at the end of her sixth-grade year. She may be the only child in the country with this form of cancer, explains her father, Michael Colligan, which probably developed from one of the chemotherapy medications used to fight the Ewing sarcoma.
Artistic, positive and self-motivated, Mo isn’t letting this second diagnosis get her down. She beat the first one, and she is continuing to fight.
“You would just have to know her to know that she is an amazingly, resilient and tough kid,” Michael says. “She’s in good spirits.”
Homebound teacher Dwight Schneider describes Mo as self-motivated, upbeat and fun. He’s discovered that she loves vanilla cupcakes and coffee, and she collects spoons.
While she isn’t able to attend school at the moment, teachers and friends at MVMS wanted to show Mo their support and planned a week of activities to raise money for her family and for Dell Children’s Cancer Center where she has been going for her treatment.
The MVMS Give Cancer the Boot week begins Monday, Sept. 24, and goes through Thursday, Sept. 27. Students will be encouraged to donate money during lunch, and the lunch which raises the most money by Wednesday, Sept. 26, will win a cell phone pass to be used during lunch on Thursday. In addition, a student from the winning lunch will get to shave Principal Dustin Davisson’s head at the Gold Out Pep Rally on Thursday.
MVMS students may also purchase a hat pass for one dollar each day, allowing them to wear a hat inside the building; teachers may purchase a two-week jeans pass for $10; and Davisson will be collecting donations in the front drive of the school in the morning and afternoon all week so parents may donate as well.
P.J. O’Toole was a kindergarten student at Bill Brown Elementary School when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a blood cancer. He spent eight months and 93 nights in the hospital.
Today, P.J. is a junior at Smithson Valley High School, a fullback on the Rangers football team, an advocate for childhood cancer awareness and cancer free.
“Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is not as big of a deal as it should be,” P.J. says. “Not a ton of people know about it, but it brings joy to my heart knowing that people out there do care and are trying to come up with a cure for this awful disease which can take away kids’ lives at the age of four or five or even younger.
“I’ve always said that if I can change just one person’s life just by doing what I’m doing, sharing my story, then I think I’ve done my job. There is someone out there who has changed my journey, and I want to be able to do that for someone else.”
P.J. and his family including his younger brother, Jacob, now a sophomore at SVHS, started giving back once his treatment was completed with donations to the San Antonio Methodist Children’s Hospital where they had spent much of their time.
P.J. was the kid who wasn’t allowed to leave his room during his long hospital stay, explains his mother, Laura O’Toole, so he and Jacob decided to donate Wii gaming systems to the hospital for other patients who were confined to their rooms.
From that point on, the O’Toole family has focused its efforts on finding cures for childhood cancer which is why P.J. joined the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Student of the Year Campaign in 2017, raising $53,000 in seven weeks.
They continue to be active with LLS as well as Teed Off at Cancer which provides a HOPE bag to children who receive a cancer diagnosis in San Antonio.
P.J. doesn’t mind talking about his story and tells those who are fighting right now, to never give up.
“It really does make you appreciate every day,” P.J. says. “There were days when I didn’t know if I would wake up and see my parents again, which was hard to think about at 6 years old. I am glad it happened to me because I am able to open up and share how I felt about it.
“If there is one thing I would want people to know, it is that no matter what you do, you can make a difference. It doesn’t matter how old you are, just taking a little bit of your time and either donate or get involved in something will help save someone’s life.”