Genre’s Kids With Cancer Fund is a 501c3 charity formed by Genre’s (like Henry with a J) parents and some friends who love Genre very much. Genre was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) on Memorial Day, 2009. He was 8 yrs. old.
In March of 2009, Genre had just won three medals at the county championship swim meet. He was, by all accounts, strong and healthy. On April 16th, as Genre turned his head to the right, his dad noticed a string of marble-sized lumps running down the left side of his neck. The lumps went from his ear down to his collar bone and, instantly, in my spirit, I knew that he had cancer.
I immediately took Genre to the pediatrician and was assured that the swollen lymph nodes were just viral. I was told to be patient and let the virus run its course for two weeks. I knew that Genre was not sick with a virus, and I took him back to the doctor several times. I called frequently and we saw different doctors in the practice. Each time, they assured me that Genre was fine. No blood work.
Over Mother’s Day weekend, we were visiting friends in Treasure Lake. Genre wasn’t able to complete a bike ride to the playground. It was a ride that he should have easily made. He was too tired to keep riding his bike. At this time, John (my husband and Genre’s dad) grew more concerned, and I was more convinced.
I took Genre to a new pediatric practice. The doctors tested him for strep and the result was positive. These new doctors were now sure that Genre’s swollen lymph nodes (now in his collar bone and groin area) were due to the strep.
God allowed me to know that Genre was really sick. I took him back to the doctor’s office several more times during the course of his antibiotics treatment. The doctor actually said these words to me, “Mrs. Baker, this is not what you are thinking. This is not a parent’s worst nightmare.”
On May 22nd, our family was out for pizza. Genre was sitting across the table from me. It was a little dark in the restaurant, so when I first saw the egg shaped lump sticking out from Genre’s neck, I assumed it was a shadow. As I looked more closely, Genre had a lump that was the size of the pointed end of a plastic Easter egg. It was sticking out under his ear and it seemed to be filled with fluid. I felt like the room was collapsing in on me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and that I might really die from fear at that moment. It took everything I had not to scream. By the time we drove twenty five minutes to our house the lump was gone.
The next morning, I took Genre to the pediatrician’s office without an appointment. I saw the doctor around 9:00 on Saturday morning and he said, “I think it’s time for you to make an oncology appointment.” I was stunned. After all this time, NOW I was being told to call an oncologist. It was Saturday on Memorial Day weekend. I would have to wait until Tuesday to make the call. It was sure to be a long, hard weekend.
On Sunday night, our family attended a Christian rock concert at our church. It was a youth event with some pretty cool music. Even though this was music that Genre loved, he sat on the side of the room with my mother. He felt warm and said that he wanted to go home. When we got home, he complained saying that his back really hurt, as well as his hip. We had no idea what was happening. We were clueless. The leukemia was taking over.
That night, we found another lump. The same kind of half-Easter-egg-shaped lump was sticking out of his back along his spine. John and I tried not to panic, but we weren’t handling things very well. We took him to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. After they drew blood, the resident told us that we would need to speak with the oncologist. They moved us to a room where we waited almost three hours for the oncologist to get to the hospital. It was the worst three hours of my life. We had no idea what we were facing. I remember asking the Resident, “Can you please tell me….is what Genre has treatable? Will he live?” Her answer was, as it should have been – “You need to wait for the oncologist.” For three hours, I prayed for God to intervene and allow Genre to have something cureable.
When Dr. Sidonio got to the hospital, he said, “Your son has acute lymphoblastic leukemia.” I asked, “Can you cure him?” He said, “We do cure it every day.”
Genre was immediately admitted and we moved into a room that would become our home for the next two weeks. The process began to start his chemotherapy protocol. They implanted a medi-port in his chest and that day began a ten month period where the drugs they gave Genre were actually killing him as they cured him.
As the days passed, I watched as Genre became sicker and weaker. At one point, Genre asked me, “Momma, is the medicine supposed to help me, or hurt me?” It was heartbreaking. During those first two weeks in the hospital, Genre relied on his Nintendo DS to entertain him and to allow him to escape the insanity that had become his world, virtually overnight. His friends would come to visit and they could play the games together. The games helped. They really helped. We met many kids during those first two weeks – not everyone was lucky enough to have a game.
When we finally came home, Genre talked a lot about wanting to buy handheld video games for the kids at the hospital. He said that he couldn’t have made it through that initial fourteen day hospital stay without his Nintendo DS. He said that the game made him feel calm and happy. It helped him ignore everything that was going on around him. Genre asked if there was any way he could make sure that every child who had ALL at CHP had a DS to play. I didn’t know how, but we told him that we’d make it happen. When your child is dying and he asks you to do something, with everything that you are, with every fiber of your being, you want to do whatever you can to make your child happy.
Genre first chose the name Operation Electronics and friends started giving us money to buy handheld gaming systems. After we had spent some time on the oncology floor at CHP, we realized that there were many needs beyond the games and that our Fund name needed to encompass all of what we hoped to do…Genre’s Kids with Cancer Fund was born. We incorporated Genre’s Kids with Cancer Fund in October of 2009.
We are blessed to be able to offer a handheld video game system to every child diagnosed with any type of cancer at Children’s Hospital of Pittsubrgh, who does not already have one. These games were priceless to our son during a long treatment or during the times when he was hospitalized for weeks at a time.
In November of 2010, we recognized the need to care for the very unprepared parents who just heard the words, “Your child has cancer.” We supply each newly diagnosed family with a bag of essential supplies and toiletries for their lengthy initial hospitalization. We call these Go Bags. The back pack is full of everything the parent will need through their long hospital stays. These supply bags include items such as shampoo, body wash, brush, toothpaste & tooth brush, floss, antacid, pain reliever, gum, notepad, pens, highlighter, socks, coffee singles and much more.
Genre’s Kids with Cancer Fund also provides $1,000 in gas cards to the pediatric social worker team each month. The social workers give these cards to the neediest families and the families who travel the farthest distances.
A major focus of our Fund has become financial assistance to the families going through the hardest times on the oncology floor. We work closely with the two pediatric oncology social workers at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Families in tremendous need are referred to us through the social worker team. These are all real people in real need…situations that arose because of childhood cancer. Many of the burdens associated with childhood cancer are not medically derived and it is our greatest hope to be of assistance where we are able. Examples of our assistance program encompass emergency food gift cards, utility bills, snow tires, car repairs and rent, among many other needs.
2014 was the first time that we assisted with the funeral expenses for one of our cancer kids. This is the part of childhood cancer that no one wants to talk about. Funeral expenses are the most heart-breaking part of this disease, but the need is so very real.
Genre is in remission. He completed his chemotherapy treatments in October of 2012. Pediatric leukemia is the longest of cancer treatments, (3 – 5 years for boys), but it is one of the most curable. Since the day Genre was diagnosed, we have seen much more good than bad, and many more blessings than we could ever have imagined. So much generosity and love has been shown to our family not only by friends and relatives, but by complete strangers as well. Our hope is to give back some of that generosity and love by assisting families battling childhood cancers in any way we can – emotionally, financially and spiritually.
During our darkest days, our burden was bearable because of our faith in God’s sovereignty. Genre was hospitalized over sixty days during the first eight month of his treatment. Times were so very hard, yet, we saw so much light and so many miracles. Because of the amazing faith of one little boy, our motto became – “Be Strong! Be Courageous!” That comes from Genre’s favorite scripture which is Joshua 1:9. We would love to share with you how we saw God work through Genre’s illness. You can read about all the amazing ways that God moved in the blog that I kept during his treatment. HERE
Thank you for taking the time to visit our site. If you have any questions about who we are or what we do, we would love to hear from you. Please use our contact page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is our most sincere desire to show families suffering through childhood cancers that there is hope. There is goodness in this world and you can know a peace that surpasses all understanding. Philippians 4:7
Always Looking Up,
Genre’s Mom & President, GKWCF