Pay It Forward: Young cancer survivor's family hosts head-shavin - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Pay It Forward: Young cancer survivor's family hosts head-shaving event for St. Baldrick's

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Would you shave your head for a great cause?  You might after you meet Abby Furco.

At first glance, Abby’s childhood memories are like most—until you really listen.  She’s got photos of her at gymnastics and dance recitals.  But she’s also got photos from her chemo treatments.

Abby was 4 when she was diagnosed with leukemia.  Genetic testing also resulted in more grave news for her family.  Abby’s mom says she has the Philadelphia chromosome, which is an inversion of the DNA.  No one knows why, how or where, she says—but it is resistant to chemotherapy.

Abby’s mom says she still remembers the day she was told her daughter had leukemia.  Doctors gave her just a 20-percent chance of survival, and she faced a bone marrow transplant—until a doctor in Chicago had an idea.  She suggested Abby try a new drug, and said she could get permission for her to try it even though it was still in the trial phase.

Permission was granted, and Abby’s treatment began.  She got heavy doses of chemo, along with the drug disatinib, which was taken daily for 132 weeks.  Her mom says there were many times they were scared they would have to say goodbye to Abby, but that day never came.

Instead, Abby has more than 900 courage beads to show for her difficult road to recovery.  One made possible in large part due to a volunteer-driven charity called the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.  They funded the research that allowed Abby to take the new drug—a pill her mom believes saved her daughter’s life.

Founded in 2005, St. Baldrick’s Foundation is committed to funding research to find cures specifically for childhood cancer.  To date, it has granted more than $101 million.

While Abby’s mom knows she can never pay them back, she can indeed pay it forward.

“Someone was fighting outside of the hospital for Abby and I before she was diagnosed, when we were in the hospital getting this funding,” her mom said.  “It's my turn, I'm ready.”

That’s why for the second year, Abby’s mom Patty is organizing one of St. Baldrick’s signature hair shaving events. The events raise money, but also allow people to stand side by side with kids who are bald or have been bald after chemotherapy in their lives.

It’s a show of solidarity empowering sick kids to keep up the fight.

Abby has some advice for kids who might have to face the same fight she has.

“Just deal with it and try to be brave.”

Abby also suggests listening to her favorite song: Katy Perry’s Roar.

Abby’s mom says there’s always the threat of a relapse—the dreaded “r” word, as she calls it—but she sees her daughter’s drive is going to take her far, and she wants her to be happy.

The head-shaving event is going on Saturday, March 29 from 11 am to 3 pm at Flanagan’s Harp and Fiddle on Cordell Avenue in Bethesda.  One of the first to go under the clippers will be Montgomery County Fire Battalion Chief Jim Resnick.  They’re still looking for participants, and the event is free.  There will be donation opportunities throughout.

All the money raised will support St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which is so critical because of all the federal cancer research funding—which is in the billions—only 4 percent is dedicated to pediatric cancer research.

A child is diagnosed with cancer every 3 minutes worldwide, and one in five children diagnosed in the U.S. will not survive.

More info: St. Baldrick's Foundation website
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