COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - No parent ever expects to hear the four words “your child has cancer,” but unfortunately, that is the reality for 43 families every single day, according to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
One teenager in Columbus is seven years into remission, but she is still fighting the side effects of treatment and raising awareness about the gruesome lifestyle cancer brings with it.
Looking at 15-year-old Tori Svenson, you see an A-plus student, a cheerleader, and unless you know her story you would never imagine she is a cancer survivor.
She was diagnosed with a brain tumor the size of a tangerine on April 12, 2011.
“It was medulloblastoma," Tori’s mom, Penny Svenson, said. "It was cancer on her brain stem, and it was about the size of a tangerine.”
Diagnosed with brain cancer at such a young age, childhood cancer took Tori’s family by storm.
“You have two things that happen," Penny Svenson said. "Either your child loses their battle with cancer or they face the side effects for the rest of their life.”
“We get treatment that’s meant for adults. We get the side effects we have to endure for the rest of our lives,” Tori said. "We have to lay in bed and we basically have to decay over the years. Our bodies are [being damaged] every single day, they’re literally, like I said, decaying.”
Now this Columbus High School student is just one of too many teenagers living with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation years into her remission.
“I’m having a chemo moment,” she commented as she chatted with News Leader 9.
Sometimes Tori loses her train of thought, gets dizzy spells and even begins to shake. She will never grow another inch or have children on her own.
But that doesn’t stop her from fighting for other kids battling the gruesome c-word.
Exactly how much money has she raised?
“I mean, like I can’t even count, millions and millions [of dollars],” Tori said.
The money she has raised impacts patients and families across the world.
The American Childhood Cancer Organization said every three minutes a family hears the words “your child has cancer.”
The American Cancer Society estimates 11,000 U.S. children will be diagnosed with cancer this year alone, with more than a quarter of those children having brain tumors, like Tori did.
The Svenson family is always working to raise awareness, but especially now as they are pushing for Columbus to ‘go gold’ for National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
“Going gold just means you are focused on childhood cancer," Tori said. "Childhood cancer gets all the love in that one month.”
The specific day honoring National Pediatric Cancer Awareness Day is Friday, September 27.