Gage Bryce, a C.S. Mott Children's Hospital patient fighting cancer, will celebrate his 12th birthday Saturday by joining the University of Michigan Marching Band during the halftime performance during Saturday's football game against Ohio State.
The hospital said Gage and his family, who are from Saginaw, have been advocates in Mott's efforts to promote awareness about the funding need for research into childhood cancer through the "Block Out Cancer" initiative.
The details of Gage's role will be kept a secret until Saturday, but are part of the band's show that will highlight the global impact of the University of Michigan through academics, innovation, technology and cultural diversity, says John Pasquale, director of the Michigan Marching Band.
"We hope that Gage can help us celebrate what it means to be a true Michigan victor," Pasquale said.
Gage was diagnosed with cancer about nine years ago, when he was just a toddler. It's a battle the hospital says he's still fighting.
"Our story is one that you don't hear every day, but it's the perfect example of both the shining success doctors have achieved in their fight to block out childhood cancers, and the heartbreaking shortcomings in our current ability to cure them," wrote Gage's mom, Melanie Bird-Bryce, in a blog post for the Block Out Cancer initiative.
Gage has stabilized and the cancer, which once spread throughout his body, is now limited to his skull. The hospital said he's had 46 rounds of chemo, surgery, a bone marrow transplant, clinical trials and more -- but he still has cancer.
"We know that without all that researchers have learned in the past ten years, he wouldn't be alive," said Bird-Bryce. "The treatments have held his cancer back. We are thankful that God has blessed our family and the scientists who have found a way to keep our son alive. But he still has cancer. We still don't know enough. He still isn't cured, and we live with that hanging over our head every day."
Each year, more than 13,000 parents will learn that their child has cancer. Despite all that's been learned, one out of five children diagnosed with cancer do not survive, according to C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.
"Despite those alarming statistics, a small percentage of research funds granted by the National Institutes of Health are allocated to researching cancer that affects children," said Valerie P. Castle, chair of C.S. Mott Children's Hospital's Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and a pediatric oncologist. "It remains the number one cause of death in children. We need to do more to find cures and new treatments."
Research has made advances in improving cure rates for children's cancers, which have increased from less than 40 percent to nearly 70 percent.
Future progress is highly dependent on new biological discoveries leading to the development of drugs specifically designed for pediatric cancers. Funding for those efforts is crucial to continuing progress, says Castle.
"C.S. Mott Children's Hospital is home to the largest, cutting-edge pediatric research effort in the state of Michigan. We believe every child deserves a cure, and that's why we established the Center for Childhood Cancer to help us find different, better ways to cure childhood cancers," said Castle.
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