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James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital Goes Gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September 14, 2015 posted by Amy Holcombe

GREENVILLE-“We went from her having two legs to one.” Patricia Watkins describes the heartbreaking reality for her family after her daughter, Angel Watkins, now 14, lost her left leg due to osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, in Sept. 2014. Now, a year later, she and her family are joining the fight to bring awareness to childhood cancer. 

September marks Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at Vidant Medical Center is participating by turning the light wall gold. Gold is the color that represents Childhood Cancer Awareness. In the U.S., almost 13,000 children under the age of 21 are diagnosed with cancer every year; approximately one-fourth of them will not survive the disease. 

Watkins said that she never thought it would be her child who had cancer and have to learn how to walk again. However, Angel’s situation is just one of thousands of stories plaguing families all over the world. “I never knew until my Angel ended up with cancer that there were so many children suffering from the same thing,” Watkins said. The staff at Maynard Children’s Hospital at Vidant Medical Center is committed to serving these families and bringing awareness to childhood cancer. 

The light wall is one of the first things you see when you approach the hospital, as it illuminates the building with vibrant blue lights. At 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 14, the light wall will turn gold and remain that way until midnight. Watkins hopes that changing the light wall will send the message to everyone who sees it to join in the fight and stand up for the children and families battling pediatric cancer.

“Fighting childhood cancer is of top importance to the hospital and the community, and it was a driving force behind the development of the new tower and its light wall,” said Dr. Ronald Perkin, pediatrician-in-chief for the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at Vidant Medical Center, and chairman of Department of Pediatrics at ECU's Brody School of Medicine.  “With this joint effort, we hope that by changing the light from blue to gold, it will show that we are, and will remain, dedicated to the fight against cancer and to the patients and families fighting their fight.”

Susan Sugg, manager of child life services at Vidant Medical Center, recognizes the need to bring attention to the battle that so many children afflicted by cancer are fighting. She explains that, “many of our pediatric patients battle these conditions, and we want the patients and family members to know they are not alone on the journey. By turning our lights to gold, we are hoping to draw the community's attention on the need to continue to join the fight against these cancers.”

While cancer is the leading cause of death nationally, the needs are even more pressing in eastern North Carolina. Here, approximately 7,200 residents are diagnosed with cancer each year (almost 20 a day — one every 77 minutes). Approximately 3,000 (equivalent to 45 percent of those diagnosed annually) will die from cancer, which is almost eight per day or one every three hours. 

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