“Mommy. Daddy. My belly hurts.” A common childhood complaint. One that every parent has heard countless times and even more so if they have more than one child. Shortly after the birth of their third child, Heidi and Gregg Pauletti heard these same words from their middle daughter and, initially, thought nothing of it. However, after hearing it over the course of a few days, they decided that they would go see their pediatrician. Normally, this was not something they would do, after all, they’d learned over the years that kids have aches and pains, and sometimes just want some TLC. Especially after welcoming a new little one into the family. But something about this was different.
They arrived to the pediatrician’s office first for the early walk-in hours expecting to a diagnosis of constipation or a virus running through the community. As the doctor examined their daughter, he felt something in her abdomen and requested that they go to their local hospital for an ultrasound. This was unexpected and a little more concerning, but more information was needed. After the ultrasound, they waited for news. The technician came out to inform them that their pediatrician was waiting at the office to discuss the results. In this moment, they knew there was something very wrong. Upon returning to the office, the pediatrician began by stating that he had already placed calls into Yale and Memorial Sloan Kettering, and that they should go to whomever called back faster, and accepted their insurance. By 1pm, after an excruciatingly long car ride–which can take as little as 40 minutes, but on that day took around an hour, they finally pulled into MSKCC.
In 4 hours, the Pauletti family went from a typical summer day with their 6-year-old and 3-year-old going to summer camp, doing crafts, playing dress up, or running around outside in the sprinkler. In 4 hours, they went from their daughter having a “typical belly ache”, to having a child living with one of the most aggressive pediatric cancers known. They went from sleeping in their home with a newborn, loveable 6-year-old and 3-year-old, to spending 22 straight days at the hospital praying that everything would be okay.
This is why we are fighting. No parent or child should have to fight this alone, and we want to do everything in our power to ensure that a cancer diagnosis is quickly treatable, and that ‘normal’ life can be resumed as quickly as possible.