With Beth initially being diagnosed with osteosarcoma — a cancerous bone tumor — in July 2009, the past two years have been an overwhelming journey for the Wesley family. After surgery and about nine months of chemotherapy, Beth was experiencing swelling in her wrist last Christmas. A biopsy revealed the cancer had returned, resulting in her left forearm being amputated on March 1 and additional chemotherapy treatments.
In her taped interview, she said she wanted to provide “hope and faith” to families going through similar experiences, speaking about her arm being amputated and the kindness of her doctors and nurses, noting “they were all really nice to me and they helped my mom out too when she needed help.” A fourth-grader at Euharlee Elementary School, Beth will be one of 20 youths who will have their story featured during the 11th annual Care-a-Thon on Thursday and Friday, which will generate funds for research and programs at the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Her pre-recorded interview will air several times throughout the 37-hour fundraising effort.
“Beth’s story, it’s not a story that any parent or family want to be their story. But, for so many kids out there, it is their story,” Wesley said. “I guess there’s so many families, once your given this news, you don’t know where to go and you don’t know where to turn to. When you get to the Aflac clinic, they guide you every step of the way. They take care of you and they take care of your children. They don’t just make them better, they make them feel better and they let them know they’re strong. And they take care of their well-being.
“They make sure your children smile. They make sure they play. They make sure they sing. They know that these children are going through the fight of their life, and they’re behind them with the medicines and the drugs. They are behind them with the support and the encouragement for these children to be courageous and for the families. So her story is the same story that so many children have there and without the Aflac clinic and without this children’s clinic to have to be able to go to, it would be such a different story.”
This is the second year that Beth’s story has been broadcasted on the Care-a-Thon. In addition to providing details about Beth’s diagnosis and treatment, the family will share how the Aflac Cancer Center and its staff assisted in her recovery.
“[We want to provide] hope and [encouragement]. Beth has been the symbol of both of those for our whole entire family and for a lot of us in our community that know her,” Wesley said. “Beth has been strong, and she wasn’t strong without a lot of strong people behind her.
“So anybody that faces this diagnosis should know they’re not alone, their families are not alone. There are people that know what they are doing, and the Aflac clinic is that place. They’re this whole battlefield of angels between the nurses and the doctors and the volunteers and the child life specialists that just make sure that these children understand and are comfortable.”
One of the most heart-wrenching moments for the Wesley family came in March, with Beth having her forearm amputated at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.
“I’ve been through a lot of scary moments in the last two years,” Wesley said. “Knowing that my daughter had to wake up on March 1 and had to get out of her bed and had to willingly put herself in a car and willingly walk herself into the hospital knowing that her arm was going to be taken off probably is one of the worst days of my life. Knowing how Beth handled everything, that’s what saved me. She’s wise beyond her years. When she was told about the amputation, she didn’t shed a tear. ... They had put a cast on her arm to make sure nothing happened to the wrist area and to keep it protected because we had about three weeks until the amputation.
“So when we were going home a day or two later she said, ‘Mommy, is this cast going to be on my arm all the way up until surgery?’ And I said, ‘Yes, it is to keep it protected.’ And she said, ‘What I want you to do is call ... [my] surgeon and I want you to ask him if he can take that cast off the day before surgery.’ She said, ‘I want to see my hand one last time and I want to say goodbye.’ So I made the call and he arranged it with her pediatrician here in Cartersville, and he called one of our local orthopedic doctors here in Cartersville and they took the cast off of her the day before so she could see her hand again and say goodbye.”
Since its inception in 2001, the Care-a-Thons have generated more than $10 million for the Aflac Cancer Center, which serves more than 350 new cancer patients each year. Starting Thursday at 5 a.m. and ending Friday at 6 p.m., WSB hosts Scott Slade, Neal Boortz and Clark Howard will lead the broadcast at the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Scottish Rite campus.
“The WSB Care-a-Thon is one of Children’s most successful fundraisers because of the compassion and generosity that WSB listeners have for our kids treated at the Aflac Cancer Center,” said Brant Rawls, public relations representative for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “We hope that people will tune in and hear stories about the amazing courage children have every day fighting against cancer or a blood disorder.”
Individuals will be able to place donations by calling WSB radio at 888-750-2772 or visiting www.choa.org/careathon.