By Ryan Berardi
Before being diagnosed with leukemia three and a half years ago, I was very naive to the pediatric world of cancer. I, being a typical high school student, thought that children who were diagnosed with the awful disease were very rare individuals. You always here about instances of a child or adolescent being diagnosed with such a severe disease, but you never fathom the consequences and results of such a diagnosis until someone close and dear to you is the one to receive it. We all have experienced someone in our lives who have suffered from cancer. It is a disease, unfortunately, all of us can relate to in some way.
Through my experience of being diagnosed with leukemia, I have witnessed firsthand the effects of cancer on the pediatric population. For over three years I have seen countless patients, infants, toddlers, children and adolescents, receive the dreadful cancer diagnosis and endure the treatments of chemotherapy and radiation in order to survive. I know what it is like for these children and adolescents, having to receive countless medications and transfusions, and suffer from the horrible symptoms from treatments. We always think of the older adult sick after treatment, but have you ever thought of the same instance with an infant, child, or adolescent? Day after day you watch your body deteriorate from the medicines they give you, and become weaker and weaker in order to defeat the disease and survive. It is a battle I wish upon absolutely no one to have to endure. That is why we must stop the battle from the cause. We must do everything in power to defeat the disease from the cause, and be able to prevent it from even happening.
Hugs for Brady has been a foundation dedicated to end pediatric cancer from its beginning. I had the privilege to know Brady, as we were diagnosed the same weekend and spent many times in the hospital and clinic together. Brady’s family and friends are remarkable people who have truly dedicated their entire lives to help end cancer by raising funds for pediatric oncology research. The foundation has also raised money that has been put to buying new toys and electronics for all the pediatric patients. I for one can say that I really appreciated the new television and DVD player when I had a fever for over two weeks. It also has weekly events like free ice cream or flowers, which when you are stuck in a hospital bed makes your day a little more tolerable.
When you are diagnosed with cancer, through your journey you learn who your true friends and family are, and who you can ultimately rely on. I witnessed the start of Hugs for Brady and the amazing things the foundation has done since its beginning. I can proudly say that Brady’s family and the organization has always been there with support every step of my journey. Organizations like Hugs for Brady have been an inspiration for me and my future. I too wish to give back to those who are suffering from this horrible disease. I am currently in my final year of study in art school in Philadelphia. After graduation I plan on making sculptures in order to raise awareness and funding for charitable organizations. Hugs for Brady has been there every step of the way with me and I plan on following its footsteps in making a difference and showing others the love it has always showed me.