October 26, 2012
In a day-long fundraiser for the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation Thursday, the Newsplex and Volvo of Charlottesville matched funds and donated $3,000 to the University of Virginia Medical Center's Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology.
The donation was inspired by funds collected Thursday for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit based outside of Philadelphia that supports pediatric cancer research nationwide. Fundraising totals are still being calculated.
The $3,000 donation to UVa. will help fund research at the medical center focusing on finding the origins and curse of pediatric cancers to help its patients, like Anna Pitts.
"Right now, she loves coming to the hospital," said Anna's mom, Krissy.
When Anna was 18 months old, she was diagnosed with leukemia. She's been a patient at the UVa. Medical Center for more than a year.
"One of the most courageous, strong 2-year-olds, beautiful, innocent -- all these things, just a wonderful person," said Dr. Brian Belyea, Anna's doctor and an attending physician at the medical center.
Anna's story begins last year when she had fevers, an ear infection, a poor appetite and bruises -- "a lot of symptoms, of course, for cancer that we weren't even aware of at the time," Krissy Pitts said.
"One of the common questions every parent asks us is, 'Why did my child get leukemia?' And that's a question we're trying to answer," Belyea said. "Nothing that she did caused this disease. We tell families all the time, this is bad luck."
The first few visits were difficult for Anna and her family.
"At first, it was difficult for us to get to clinic," Krissy Pitts said. "She would know what was happening."
But after one year of being pricked with needles and receiving chemotherapy, Anna is now in remission.
"There's no evidence of leukemia," Belyea said. "In fact, there's not been evidence of leukemia for a long time."
"She's a huge fan of everybody in the clinic," Anna's dad, Rob Pitts, said. "The nurses, the doctors -- everybody, she loves."
The team at UVa is working on clinical trials and testing new therapies in a division that sees at least 50 new cancer cases each year and treats more than 100 patients each week.
"Before, I couldn't tell you I knew of any child that had cancer. Never even really heard about it. It wasn't talked about very much," Krissy Pitts said. "Until it happens to you."
Anna has one year left of maintenance chemotherapy to ensure the leukemia will not return. She's able to play with her sister, Grace, and begin living the life a 2-year-old is supposed to have.
"It's just very heartwarming to see kids who are so sick but then still be so resilient and so strong in the face of that illness," Belyea said.
"It's nothing that you ever expect to go through," Krissy Pitts said. "I've learned so much going through this experience."
It's an experience made easier through a team at the university working to find a cure.