The I Care I Cure Childhood Cancer Foundation was founded by Beth and Brad Besner (along with their friends and family) in honor of their son, Ian, who was diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in January, 2006, one week before his 11th birthday. Ian was an extraordinary boy who shared his joy and love of life with everyone who met him.
Ian was an exceptionally gifted student, with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and an acute curiosity about the world around him. As passionate as Ian was about learning and reading, he was equally passionate about baseball and was a talented little league pitcher and an avid major league and college (UM) baseball fan. He also loved guitar, karate, rollerblading, roller hockey, skateboarding, travel, skiing – you name it, he wanted to try it and be great at it. And he usually was. And, like many kids his age, Ian also loved to “yuck” it up with his brothers and friends and get them to laugh whenever possible. He was witty and fun. In essence, Ian had a love of life and life’s experiences that was irresistible and infectious.
When Ian was diagnosed with leukemia, his whole world fell apart. He was bitterly angry. While the “cure” rate for ALL has come a long way with “cure” rates of 75-80% “, the reality of pediatric cancer treatment is excruciatingly difficult. Ian’s treatment was to last about 2 ½, years and entail massive doses of toxic chemotherapies administered orally, intravenously, through frequent shots to his legs and spine, and radiation to his brain. To a bright, joyful, enthusiastic child, this so-called “cure” was a death sentence – the end of life as he knew it.
Ian’s treatment required him to stay out of school and away from friends because of low immunities. Current chemotherapy kills all fast-replicating cells – the good and the bad — instead of just the cancer-causing cells. This shotgun approach to treatment, leaves no white blood cells to ward off infection and causes hair loss. Ian was ashamed of his appearance and his physical weakness and was embarrassed to see friends. He was isolated and lonely much of the time and frustrated with his physical limits. And when he should have been gaining independence, Ian’s choices were now left to his doctors and parents who needed to save his life. He suffered anxiety each and every time he had to go to the hospital as he knew what he was facing – vomiting, painful mouth sores, pain, nausea, blood transfusions, and more vomiting. Ian often asked why the “cure” had to hurt so much.
Unfortunately, Ian died on May 31, 2006, just four months after his diagnosis and after four months of bravely enduring an excruciatingly difficult chemotherapy regimen. While Ian was cancer-free after just 15 days of treatment, following several more rounds of toxic chemotherapy, he had no immune system with which to fight meningitis that infected him. He was gone within weeks of entering the hospital with a fever. Plain and simply, the drugs that were supposed to save Ian’s life, ended up killing him.
After Ian died, his parents thought often about Ian’s question . . .
Why DOES pediatric cancer treatment have to be so hard? Can it be improved? What is being done to improve treatments and to limit the horrendous side effects of treatments? Why do there have to be such debilitating long-term emotional and health problems after treatment? Having had to witness their child suffer, the Besners wanted to spare other children and their parents that agony. Having found themselves dumbfounded when Ian was ill, the Besners realized that much of the public is completely unaware of the pain and suffering kids endure under current chemotherapy regimens.
They also realized that they had find a way to continue Ian’s spirit of community service in a way that would touch the lives of others and inspire kids to commit to volunteerism at a young age. Ian’s friends and family knew that they had to carry on Ian’s “caring” nature.
After witnessing Ian’s physical and emotional struggle with pediatric cancer and its current treatment, his family and friends knew that Ian would also want to spare as many children as possible the awful pain and suffering that he was forced to endure.
Armed with knowledge and first-hand experience, the Besners knew they needed to devote their efforts to educating the public about and finding gentler, more humane cures for childhood cancer.