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Life Lessons

Helping ease the burden of pediatric cancer

The Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley will hold its 'Run to Live' event in April

Helping ease the burden of pediatric cancer

Before you know it, we'll be heading in to spring time when many organizations hold runs or walks or other events to raise money and awareness.

These events are always great opportunities for families to give back and get some exercise, but how do you chose which ones to get involved in?

One Fogelsville family says there is one organization they just can't live without, The Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley.

The Stauffer family says PCFLV has give them support and much needed time away from the difficulties of a cancer diagnosis.

It has to do with a 10-year-old Vanessa Stauffer, who in her short life has dealt with adult-sized burdens.

When Vanessa looks at family photos of herself as a baby, the sunny smile of a toddler hides the gravity of what she's been through. She likes to be called Nessa and having cancer is now something she and her family face each and every day.

Vanessa's mom, Tracy says it's all they know.

"Vanessa's still on treatment and it's been eight and a half years, so I don't really remember being a normal mom, because I wasn't a normal mom for very long as Vanessa started showing symptoms very early on in her life," Tracy says.

It started when Vanessa was only about 20 months old and doctors found cancer in her brain and a tumor in her spine.

"And then to sit in his office and have him say, 'There is a tumor,' and show it to us on a screen, things have never been the same," Tracy says.

While medicine is saving her daughter, Tracy says the The Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley is saving her family.

Besides raising her other daughter, Kyra, Tracy is working on the organization's annual walk in April with foundation Executive Director Michelle Zenie. They stress all money raised goes to Lehigh Valley families to give them breaks from cancer. when people give to the walk, they should know one thing, Zenie said.

"Just knowing that any of the money you're contributing via registration or donations that you get to support, your efforts stay right her in the Lehigh Valley to support those very same families that you're meeting that day," she said.

The organization provides support, fun activities and, for the Stauffers, they've been given hope and even the ability to fight cancer with optimism

"It does make you appreciate things: time, family, your friends," Tracy says. "My husband, Donny and I, are actually much closer because of it. The four of us do a lot of things just the four of us because we like to make memories and we like to be together."

Zenie hopes one day there will be no need for the foundation and the services it provide.

"We firmly hope that some day we don't need PCLV (because) there is a cure, and kids don't have to go through this experience as well as their families," Zenie said. "But we know there are many Lehigh Valley families who will be part of this struggle in the near future."

The Run to Live Walk is scheduled for April 2 at the Ironton Rail Trail in Coplay. Visit the foundation's website for more information.

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Allentown, PA 18102




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