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Avery's Battle | News

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Avery's Battle
News, People
Avery's Battle

Written By: Anita Brikman

POTOMAC, Md. (WUSA)-- Whenever the war against cancer seems overwhelming and unwinnable, its good to take a moment and take stock of what medicine HAS accomplished.

In some pediatric cancers like acute lymphoblastic leukemia (A.L.L.), there has been a major upswing in survival rates since the 1960's, when all but a small percentage of patients died. Today, the survival rate is almost 90%.

Avery Pettway of Potomac, Maryland is a local child reaping the benefits of the gains made in cancer research. Two years ago, just before her 4th birthday, Avery's mother took her to the pediatrician for the second time in ten days. She was on antibiotics for an ear infection, but wasn't getting better. Avery's doctor noticed she was extremely pale, and probably anemic.

Avery's mother Heather Pettway says, "He knew right away. So he took a blood test right there.

She called her husband John moments later. He remembers, "Bravely fighting back tears, she says, 'Its bad. Avery's got leukemia'.  

The next three weeks for the Pettway family was a blur. Avery spent three weeks at Georgetown University Hospital in the pediatric intensive care unit.

Avery has been on chemotherapy every since, both daily pills and IV infusions twice a month. Through it all, her parents say, this youngest of three never lost her

John says, "I don't think she remembers life without cancer."

This May, Avery's treatment will finally be finished. After five years in remission, Avery will be considered cured. The Pettways say they are extremely grateful to the pediatric oncology staff at Georgetown, and to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, an organization which helps fund research and offers critical support to patients and families as they go through the lengthy treatment process.

Avery is this year's "Honored Student" for school and youth programs in the national capital area, including the Pennies for Patients fundraising drive. Posters with her picture are hanging around hundreds of participating schools.

Leah Cuttman is the campaign manager. She says, "We provide classroom collection boxes, along with an individual box for the students to take home to collect the spare change they can find in their couch cushions and around the house. The classroom that raises the most money at each school will be rewarded with a Dominos pizza party.

Cuttman says all that small change really adds up. She points out, "Last year, we had 360 schools across the DC Metro area participate, and they were able to raise $450,000 dollars.

Another critical fundraiser for LLS is the Leukemia Ball, a black-tie gala held at the Washington Convention Center. The 2011 Leukemia Ball is this Saturday, with Diana Ross as the featured entertainer.

News, People