Cade Schroeder, 6, plays basketball May 4 at Quail Run Elementary School. Cade was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, three years ago and is now in remission. He will be participating in the cancer survivor lap at Relay For Life of Douglas County, a June 8 benefit for the American Cancer Society.
Young cancer survivor to participate in Relay for Life
By Karrey Britt, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department
Six-year-old Cade Schroeder, a first-grader at Quail Run School, will join about 150 cancer survivors June 8 in a walk around the University of Kansas track at Rock Chalk Park. Cade and others will participate in Relay For Life of Douglas County, an annual event that raises both money for the American Cancer Society and awareness about cancer, the leading cause of death in Douglas County.
“We’ve all, unfortunately, been touched by cancer,” said Carolyn Zeller, senior community development manager for the American Cancer Society. “Relay is an opportunity to celebrate the survivors who inspire us and to remember the loved ones who are no longer with us because of this horrible disease. It’s an opportunity to fight back and come together as a community.”
Zeller’s favorite part of Relay is the survivor lap. “As the survivors walk the track, everyone cheers them on. It's a reminder that we are making progress in the fight against cancer, and these people are alive because of that progress,” she said.
Relay For Life Highlights
Relay For Life of Douglas County, which is free and open to the public, will be from 6 p.m. to midnight June 8 at Rock Chalk Park. To learn more, visit relayforlife.org/douglasks or call 785-313-5036.
- 5:30-9 p.m. — Kid Zone. For a $5 donation, kids can participate activities.
- 7:15 p.m. — Survivor and caregiver lap. Everyone will gather around the track to cheer on the strength and courage of cancer survivors and their caregivers.
- 7:30 p.m. — Team lap. Thirty-five teams have formed to raise funds and awareness by participating in the event.
- 8 p.m. — Survivor speech. Maggie York, who lost her mother to breast cancer and now is living with a diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer, will speak.
- 8:15 p.m. — Fundraising awards. Lawrence resident Bob Silipigni will be among those recognized. So far this year, he has raised $68,000, an individual record for Douglas County.
- 9 p.m. — Luminaria ceremony. Hundreds of luminaria bags will be lit — each representing a life taken by cancer, a survivor of cancer, or support for a person still fighting the disease.
- 11:30 p.m. — Closing ceremony.
Relay For Life will be extra special for Cade because it’s his birthday and he’s cancer-free after undergoing three years of treatment. To celebrate, his mother, Stacie Schroeder, and aunt Dana Shirley have organized a “Kid Fun Zone,” which will include bounce houses, water gun painting, duck pond and dancing. “We’re having a party because we have a lot to celebrate at Relay this year,” Schroeder said. “We want to do it big and make it fun, and bring some awareness to childhood cancer.”
Cade’s battle began when he was 3 years old. Schroeder said he complained of leg pains off and on for a month. She took him to an urgent care clinic and later to see his pediatrician, but they didn’t find anything from testing. Their advice was to keep an eye on him.
On Jan. 16, 2015, when Schroeder dropped Cade off at day care, she said he was complaining about his legs hurting and he was limping. “I was thinking that he might be faking it to get out of school or that it was growing pains,” she said. That was her hope. However, two hours later, the teacher called and said Cade was crying and couldn’t stand up. Schroeder called the pediatrician, who told her to take Cade to the emergency room at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.
“When the ER doctor came in and shut the door, I started crying. I didn’t even know what she was going to say,” Schroeder recalled, teary-eyed. “I felt instant panic.” Cade was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It’s the most common type of cancer in children, and treatments result in a good chance for a cure.
Cade’s favorite superhero cartoon character was Hulk Smash, so his family’s motto became: “We’re going to smash cancer.”
Cade endured 1,176 days of treatment, 32 lumbar punctures, four blood transfusions, three bone marrow biopsies, two ports and countless doses of chemotherapy and steroids. He lost his hair three times. Schroeder said steroids were the most difficult for Cade because they would make him hungry, angry and tired. “His emotions were all over the place. Sometimes he would go to bed at 6 p.m. and sleep all night. It was hard on his body,” she said.
Cade also missed out on typical kid activities like going to the swimming pool and park playgrounds because he had to be in a germ-free, safe environment. He spent most of his time at home for the first year. If his temperature was too high or his blood counts too low, he would be taken to Children’s Mercy Hospital. “We spent a lot of time at the hospital, but a week was our longest stay,” Schroeder said.
Cade Schroeder, 6, takes a break from playing basketball May 4 at Quail Run Elementary School to pose for a picture with his mother, Stacie, and sister Quinn, 9. Cade is now in remission from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. He will be participating in the cancer survivor lap at Relay For Life of Douglas County, a June 8 benefit for the American Cancer Society.
Schroeder recalled picking up Cade’s older sister, Quinn, then 6, from school. “She was grouchy, so I pulled the car over in a neighborhood and asked her what was wrong. She burst into tears. Cade was back in the hospital and she said she thought her brother was going to die,” Schroeder said. That night they got out the books that the American Cancer Society had sent in a care package for the family. The books were for siblings and they covered topics like, “Why Is My Sibling Losing Hair?” and “Why Do You Have to Take Special Medicine?” Schroeder said they helped Quinn understand that her brother was sick, but he was going to be OK.
Schroeder also shared the books with Cade’s kindergarten and first grade classmates. They talked about washing hands, why Cade was losing his hair and being careful when playing with Cade because he has a port. “His classmates and teachers have been so supportive,” Schroeder said.
On April 6, his classmates and teacher Erica Keller wore superhero shirts in honor of Cade and to help him celebrate his last day of chemotherapy treatment. “Cade loves superheroes and he is our own real life superhero,” Keller said. “We wanted to show that we support him and are always there for him.”
Keller said Cade has taught her about strength, perseverance and positivity. “Cade is an amazing kid. He helped me learn to be more positive and not take anything for granted. It has been a joy to have Cade in class, and I hope that I have taught him half of what he has taught me,” she said.
Cade’s port was removed in May, and he had his first haircut a couple of weeks ago. His mom said he now gets to experience life without cancer — something he doesn’t remember. “He’s doing great,” Schroeder said. “He is able to run and play and you would never know that he has been sick.”
Schroeder previously worked for the American Cancer Society for eight years and helped organize fundraisers, including Relay For Life events in Lawrence and other Kansas communities. “Obviously, the American Cancer Society is close to our hearts. I’ve met so many survivors and cancer patients through my work. I just never imagined it would be my kid.”
She said participating in Relay For Life as a caregiver has been a whole new experience. “To watch your kid walk that lap and know that they are clapping for him,” she broke off, her voice cracking and her eyes brimmed with tears. “It’s completely different. It’s about being there to celebrate these people who have worked so hard to be here and that means so much more. It’s not just a survivor lap — it’s a warrior lap.”
Karrey Britt is communications coordinator for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.
Where the money goes
In 2016 in Kansas, the American Cancer Society provided:
- 1,700 special kits of tailored information and resources for newly diagnosed patients
- 300 wigs to cancer patients.
- 1,000 rides to treatment and other cancer-related appointments.
- 11,150 free nights in a Hope Lodge and 550 free or reduced nights with hotel partners, saving $1.7 million in costs for cancer patients and their caregivers.
- $3.5 million in cancer research grants.
Douglas County Cancer Data
On average, more than 400 Douglas County residents receive a cancer diagnosis each year, according to Kansas Department of Health and Environment data, and nearly 150 county residents die from cancer annually.
The most commonly diagnosed cancers for men and women are:
- Breast (women) and prostate (men)
- Uterus (women) and bladder (men)
The leading causes of cancer deaths for men and women are:
- Breast (women) and prostate (men)