Why Pediatric Brain Cancer

From our Founder and President, Mike Smith:


The short version:


I know it's hard, but force yourself to read a story or two and look at the pictures. Follow a foundation benefiting Pediatric Brain Cancer (which are typically run by the grieving parents), on Facebook, Instagram, etc. That alone will tell you why we choose to use our company as a vehicle to help this cause.



My version:


One evening, in January of 2011, my wife, Carrie, told me she had learned through a friend that a seven year-old neighborhood girl, McKenna Wetzel (who was the same age as our oldest daughter), had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer (DIPG) and given only months to live. McKenna went to a different elementary school than our kids and was very active in sports (and our daughter was not).  Although we lived within a mile of each other (and had seen them with mutual friends at Starbucks), we had never formally met the Wetzels. Nevertheless, it hit home for us, for obvious reasons.


Although she could never muster the right words to introduce herself, Carrie couldn't help but feel there was something going on that was bigger than all of us, pulling us together. She would frequently tell me "I saw McKenna again... It was almost eerie that I ran into their family again.  Mike... I know God is bringing us together for some reason."


Although I didn't fully understand, I believed her.  If you knew my wife, you would too.  Carrie has an extremely strong Faith and is more intuitive than anyone I've ever known.  This wasn't the first time she "had a feeling" about something that later materialized but that's another story...


We kept McKenna, her parents and sister in our prayers and would get an occasional update from a mutual friend.


During this same time, our family was handed our own challenge. In July of that year, Carrie was 23 weeks pregnant with our 4th child... a daughter (Sarah), to go with our other 2 girls and 1 boy.  As a result of an abnormal pre-natal screening for Spina Bifida, it was discovered that Sarah was suffering from severe IUGR (Intra Uterine Growth Restriction).  Basically, Carrie's Placenta was not adequately functioning and Sarah was not getting the nutrition she needed.


The diagnosis was grim and we were told that it was highly likely that either Carrie would miscarry or that Sarah would be born before 26 weeks, which means she would have an 80% chance of severe complications, such as Cerebral Palsy or Blindness. The specialist prescribed strict bed rest in a quiet place and to go home and pray for a miracle.  


Carrie and I went home, cried a lot, prayed a lot and tried to normalize the situation as much as possible.  It's a story within itself but needless to say, it was difficult.  During that time, for some reason (which doesn't take much), we stopped in at our neighborhood Starbucks and saw a flyer, advertising a memorial paddle out at the Huntington Beach Pier.  Our hearts sank as we read that it was for McKenna, who had passed away on July 21st.  We still didn't know how we were tied to the Wetzels and had still never met them but it was still heartbreaking to hear the news.  And it is still just as heartbreaking to think about it today.


On August 25th, Sarah was born by an Emergency C-Section at 30 weeks, weighing only 1 lb., 14 ounces and spent 49 days in the NICU.  Fast forward and today, she is a healthy child without a single complication from her low birth weight or severe prematurity.  Through the initial diagnosis, pre-natal medications, fetal monitoring, birth and NICU care, Carrie and I personally witnessed the miraculous medical advances the US has made in neonatal care.  Without these advances, we also know without a doubt that our strong-willed Sarah would not be with us today.


The Gap


While Sarah was in the hospital, we learned that the NICU itself didn't really exist until Jacqueline and President John F. Kennedy's son, Patrick, was born 5 1/2 weeks premature in 1963 and passed away at only 2 days old. The attention of the President's son's death sparked major research in premature birth, which has since lead to the countless medical advances in neonatal care that I mentioned.


Similarly in 1962 (only a year prior to Patrick Kennedy's son passing away), Neil Armstrong lost his daughter, Karen "Muffie," to the same form of pediatric brain cancer (DIPG), that took McKenna's life. The difference is that absolutely zero improvements have been made in DIPG diagnosis, treatment or life expectancy (0%), since that time.


Why not? Lack of attention and funding. Karen passed away 7 years prior to Neil Armstrong walking on the moon and he was not yet a celebrity. Karen's passing wasn't top headline news and thus, a national childhood cancer research initiative was never sparked.


Is it really the money? Well, I don't know for sure but we know that adult cancer diagnosis, treatment and life expectancy has absolutely improved since 1962.  We also know that today, all childhood cancer, as a whole, only receives 4% of the funding for cancer research, despite the fact that childhood cancers are unique and are obviously not benefiting from the breakthroughs with adult cancer.  I think it is extremely naive to say it's not due to a lack of funding.


Is childhood cancer an area of high priority?  My opinion is YES.  More children die of cancer in the US than any other disease and more than many other childhood diseases combined. 


The Link


Carrie and I know that to whom much is given, much is expected.  It was not a coincidence that our experience with Sarah coincided with the Wetzels.  In the last few years, there have also been countless other coincidences popping up in our lives, revolving around this topic.  Like the fact that our company's trademark image is a brain.


Carrie was right... we were being drawn together for a reason.  The discrepancy between our stories has been brought to our attention and it is too painful to ignore.  We feel that we need to do something to help childhood cancer receive the advancements that Sarah was blessed enough to receive in the NICU.  If we can help reduce the amount of families that have to watch their kids slowly fade away, it's something our hearts are telling us we need to do.


For that reason, starting on September 1, 2015, we have decided to embed this cause into the fabric of our company.  We want AeroCom to be a vehicle to bring awareness and funding to pediatric cancer research.


*Update: Sadly, literally days after we tied our company to this cause, a dear friend of ours' 8-year-old daughter, Brooke, was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away on July 8, 2016. Yet another all-to-ovious and devastating sign that we need to continue fighting to bring awareness and funding to this cause.


What can you do?


The great news for you is that helping us is free... you're actually doing it right now.  The money AeroCom uses to fund a cure for Pediatric Brain Cancer comes from the things you're already doing.  Thank you.


If you are a decision maker for a company, just keep regularly visiting our website and leaving reviews on the telecom and cloud service providers you've experienced.  We especially appreciate the reviews on the service providers that did a good job.  By doing so, it not only brings great value to your peers' decision-making process, it also drives more traffic and advertisers to our site, which helps brighten the future of children and families yet to experience a loss like that of what the Wetzels have had to endure.


Purchasing the service for your chosen service provider from AeroCom also drives more funding to Pediatric Brain Cancer and costs you nothing.  AeroCom's pricing is the same or lower than you will get anywhere else so there is no downside.


In my heart, I know rallying for this cause will also help to honor and remember the lives of McKenna, Brooke and so many other innocent children that this monster has taken from us.  These families do not want their child's passing to be forgotten and neither do we.


For more information on McKenna, the Wetzels, this cause and the foundation they have created in McKenna's honor, The McKenna Claire Foundation, please visit www.mckennaclairefoundation.org.