Raising awareness and celebrating support

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London Mayor Patrick Closser (center) presents a proclamation to the Sabulsky family in recognition of September as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. London teenager Sean Sabulsky (second from left) is battling Ewing sarcoma. Joining him for the proclamation presentation are his father, Sean, his mother, Barb, and his grandmother, Laura Evans. The family’s t-shirts sport the phrase “Sean Strong” and a yellow ribbon for childhood cancer awareness.

(Posted Sept. 22, 2021)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Earlier this month, Mary Taylor of the Friends of Faith Pruden Foundation, a non-profit that provides financial and emotional support to young central Ohio oncology patients and their families, approached London Mayor Patrick Closser with a request: Would he present a proclamation to London teenager Sean Sabulsky in recognition of September as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month? Closser didn’t hesitate to say “yes.”

“I thought this was a great idea as Sean is a great kid and has already been able to raise so much awareness,” Closser said. “The Sabulskys have been advocates that have been able to unite people for a greater cause.”

Sean Sabulsky, whose 15th birthday is next week, is a freshman at London High School. He is the son of Barb and Sean Sabulsky and a brother to Taylor and Jennifer, both London High School graduates.

In 2019, Sean was experiencing pain that would come and go on his right side. In January 2020, an X-ray showed a tumor. The diagnosis: Ewing sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Within a few days of the diagnosis, a port was placed, a bone biopsy was done, and Sean started chemotherapy.

“Sean plays basketball, baseball and soccer. It was really hard to just stop everything. He was always busy in some activity or sport. We tried to keep things as normal as we could. COVID made it tough,” Barb said.

Over the course of 2020, Sean went through months of aggressive chemotherapy, 33 days of radiation, and a surgery in May to remove three ribs where the tumor had grown. He was on five chemotherapy medications for the entire year. By December, he was in remission–cancer-free.

“When he completed chemo, even with the port still in his chest, he went out and played the last few games of the basketball season (with London’s eighth-grade team),” Barb said.

Sean went on to play baseball with the middle school club team this spring, holding down the fort at second base.

In May of this year, he began experiencing hip pain. Barb said she thought maybe, because he had just finished the baseball season, Sean had pulled a muscle, but an MRI showed a tumor in his hip. A bump on his head also turned out to be a tumor. The cancer had returned.

“We are fighting that battle again,” Barb said.

This time, Sean is going through a different chemotherapy regimen and has received radiotherapy treatment on his head and hip. He will receive chemotherapy through March or April of next year.

“He’s able to be active, but chemo knocks him down,” Barb said.

The family attends various events, including sporting events, to stay busy. And since his diagnosis, Sean has picked up the game of golf and has worked to convert his baseball swing into a golf swing.

Through everything, the family has received tremendous support, Barb said.

Sean has been learning remotely since his diagnosis. The school district has been “amazing with understanding,” Barb said. Sean’s friends have been there for him, raising money for the cause and simply being good friends. The community at large has been a blessing, too.

“The community of London–not only these organizations and foundations–but London itself has really rallied around our family from the first diagnosis to today,” Barb said. “One thing with cancer is that it can make kids and their families feel isolated. London is really making sure we don’t feel that way.”

Barb said the family considers it an honor to be included in the city’s proclamation of September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in London.

“Childhood cancer doesn’t get a lot of attention,” she said. “These proclamations help bring awareness, help kids battling the disease, and hopefully pique interest in more funding and research.”

About childhood cancer
• Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children.

• Forty-six children per day (16,790 per year) are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S.

• Approximately 40,000 children are on active cancer treatment at any given time.

• The average age of cancer diagnosis in children is 6 years old compared to 66 years old for adult cancer diagnoses.

• Eighty percent of childhood cancer patients are diagnosed late and with metastatic disease.

• On average, there’s been a 0.6 percent increase in childhood cancer incidence per year since the mid-1970s resulting in an overall incidence increase of 24 percent over the last 40 years.

• Two-thirds of childhood cancer patients will have chronic health conditions as a result of their treatment toxicity, with one-quarter being classified as severe or life-threatening.

• Approximately half of families dealing with childhood cancer rate the associated financial burden due to out-of-pocket expenses as considerable to severe.

• In the last 20 years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved only four new drugs to specifically treat childhood cancer.

• The National Cancer Institute recognizes the unique research needs of childhood cancer and the associated need for increased funding to carry this out.

• Hundreds of non-profit organizations at the local and national level are helping children with cancer and their families cope through educational, emotional and financial support.

• Researchers and healthcare professionals work diligently, dedicating their expertise to treat and cure children with cancer.

One way to promote awareness is the Ohio Gold Ribbon Awareness license plate that benefits The Center for Childhood Cancer at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. More information can be found at www.faithprudenfoundation.org.

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