On March 27, 2007, Grier Christenbury was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma. He was 2 ½ years old. Neuroblastoma is the most common solid cancer of early childhood. It grows in the developing nerves of a child, often appearing as a tumor in the chest or abdomen. There is no known cause or cure.
Grier, with the help of his parents Amy and Jeff, and his siblings, Hayes and Grace, has been fighting the disease for four years. During their battle, the Christenburys learned that pediatric cancer robs families of more children than any other disease, that there is a vast disparity between funding of pediatric cancer and other cancers and that there is a lack of interest on the part of pharmaceutical companies to invest research and development dollars in treatment and cures. So they have made it their mission to not only fight this disease, but to raise tens of thousands of dollars for pediatric cancer research while educating our community about this dreadful illness.
Grier’s enormous dark, brown eyes take in everything around him, giving the impression that he is older and wiser than his 6-½ years. A gifted athlete, who is not defined by his cancer, Grier is a natural on the baseball and soccer fields. Unfortunately, he can also hold his own in an MRI scanner or an infusion room. He has spent most of his childhood in and out of Levine Children’s Hospital and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NYC receiving treatments. But that hasn’t stopped him from attending kindergarten, splitting his time between the classroom and the chemotherapy room.
While his classmates count their fingers, Grier counts his treatments: 15 rounds of 5 day chemotherapy, 2 thoracotomies, 14 radiation treatments, 10 rounds of an extremely painful antibody treatment called 3F8 (that he received in NYC while living at the Ronald McDonald House) and more blood and platelet transfusions than he can count. In the span of four years, Grier has relapsed twice.
During one of the visits to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Amy met Gretchen Holt. Her son, Liam, was the inspiration for Cookies for Kids Cancer. Through the concept of local bake sales, Cookies for Kids Cancer provides the inspiration and support for communities to fight pediatric cancer. The Christenburys, with the help of their friend Lesa Helbein,100 volunteers, 23 local bakeries, and a matching grant from Bank of America, raised $90,000 in their third community bake sale last December.
What can we do as a community? We don’t have to find the cure, we simply have to support the effort to fund clinical trials for children. Forty-six children are diagnosed with cancer every day (that’s two full classrooms at Grier’s school). Over 40,000 children are currently being treated for cancer. Why not send cookies to somebody you love on Valentine's Day? Visit the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer website at www.cookiesforkidscancer.org.
Together, we can make a difference one “good cookie” at a time.