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A David vs. Goliath story

May 9, 2019 10:01 pm

This is a David vs. Goliath story.

Goliath is childhood cancers, which make up less than 1% of all cancers diagnosed each year, according to the American Cancer Society, but they produce 100% of the heartache among families the disease indiscriminately strikes.

About 10,590 children in the United States under the age of 15 were diagnosed with cancer in 2018, the most-recent year statistics are available, but childhood cancer rates have been rising slightly for the past few decades, even though the total number of cases is relatively small.

Because of major treatment advances in recent decades, more than 80% of children with cancer now survive 5 years or more, according to the American Cancer Society. Overall, this is a huge increase since the mid-1970s, when the 5-year survival rate was about 58%.

David is Cody Alessi, a smiling, bespectacled 9-year-old Ichabod Crane third-grader and martial-arts student who has pledged his young life to helping the victims of childhood cancer.

Cody is using the skills, training and discipline he learned by competing in jiu-jitsu to raise thousands of dollars to help childhood cancer patients and their families. Last year, he raised $8,000, which ranked him atop the national Tap Cancer Out fundraising drive. This year, Cody plans to go one better and raise $10,000; he is already on pace to reach his goal.

The haunting aspect of childhood cancer is that it could manifest itself all the way through adulthood.

For many years after treatment, regular follow-up exams are critical. As time goes by, the risk of the cancer returning goes down, but some side effects of treatment might not show up until years later, according to the American Cancer Society.

Because of major advances in treatment, more children treated for cancer survive into adulthood. But treatments might affect children’s health later in life, according to the American Cancer Society.

Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines kung fu as any of various Chinese martial arts and related disciplines that are practiced especially for self-defense, exercise and spiritual growth. Childhood cancer is strong, but we think Cody Alessi’s kung fu is stronger.