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When five-year-old Kathryn complained to her mom that her foot was hurting, her mom discovered a lump on Kathryn's calf.

A trip to the pediatrician revealed Athlete’s foot between Kathryn’s toes. But the lump on her leg  that was something else.

Rhabdomyocarcoma is a cancer of the skeletal muscles. It’s rare, with only about 350 new pediatric cases diagnosed annually. And it’s aggressive. Although Kathryn’s cancer had been caught early, her treatment still involved 42 weeks of chemotherapy, 20 radiation sessions, and the surgical removal of the tumor. 

Blindsided by the diagnosis, Kathryn's mom, Lisa, was comforted by the support she found at the clinic, in the hospital, and in her own community.

“You find this network of cancer moms, and you cling to them,” she says.

These warrior moms, fighting for their children’s lives, understand the shock, the fear, the medical terminology, the good days and the bad. They stand fiercely beside each other, members of a club that no one would willingly join. 

Unlike many families with a child in cancer treatment, both Lisa and her husband kept working, now urgently in need of the health insurance policy provided by Lisa’s job. Lisa scheduled her work around Kathryn’s treatment, the extended family provided backup, and the community rallied. One of Kathryn’s friends opted for sending donations to the family instead of receiving birthday gifts. The school bought Kathryn an iPad for her hospital stays. In the clinic, Kathryn made new friends. Volunteers provided music, clowns entertained, and doctors and nurses delivered expert, compassionate care.

“On the news you hear all this negativity, all the bad,” Lisa says. “But when your child gets diagnosed with something like this, you see the good. We got to see a side of humanity that no one else sees. If everybody saw this, it would change the world.”

The world changed for Kathryn and her family on the day she was diagnosed with cancer. An unexpected, unwelcome journey followed. Through it all, the best of humanity revealed itself. And Lisa remembers that.

Kathryn, 7

Diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma at 5