In June 2016, 4-year-old Gwyn Satterlee had a fever and red rash-like dots on her neck. Her mom, Leslie, remembers it was a busy week at work, so her husband Galen took their daughter to the pediatrician.
In less than 24 hours, their lives changed when blood tests revealed Gwyn likely had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. They were still processing this news when their doctor told them a bed was waiting at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and chemotherapy would start almost immediately. Four days later, armed with two enormous bags of medication, they took Gwyn home to Chandler to continue a long fight.
Of all the challenges, one of the hardest, Leslie remembers, was seeing her creative, artistic, affectionate and joyful daughter’s personality change during the first course of treatment, which included steroids. Gwyn was moody, not feeling well. And her older sister, Paige, struggled with all of it.
“There are a lot of resources for the patients themselves, but no one tells you how to help the siblings,” Leslie says of Paige, now 9. “She’s still at a point where she doesn’t want to talk about it.”
Gwyn, now 7, is in remission, and she is the honorary race starter for the Run to Fight Children’s Cancer, which starts at 7 a.m. on Saturday, March 16, at Grand Canyon University. It’s the largest race in Arizona dedicated solely to pediatric cancer, and all proceeds go to PCH and Children’s Cancer Network, which provides valuable programs and emotional support to families.
CCN does offer activities for siblings, plus resources like its (free to schools) H.O.P.E. program — delivering a message of science, empathy and compassion and helping kids understand that cancer isn’t contagious, and that kids with cancer can battle it for years.
For three years, the Satterlees have helped raise money for the local Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through lemonade stands and blood drives, and they hope their team of Gwyn’s Gladiators at the Run to Fight Children’s Cancer will ultimately help to fund child-life specialists — who help families navigate the practical, social and emotional impact of cancer — at PCH satellite clinics. To honor and to help kids like Gwyn and their families, you can run, walk or simply show up to cheer at the Run to Fight.
Run to Fight Children’s Cancer (March 16). This is the largest race in Arizona dedicated solely to pediatric cancer. The ninth annual event at Grand Canyon University features a 10K, 5K, a Cancer Survivors Walk and a family fun festival with vendors, arts and crafts, inflatables, music and more. All proceeds go to Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Children’s Cancer Network.