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How two SA moms got more funding for childhood cancer research

After losing their children to cancer, two San Antonio moms realized there wasn't enough knowledge about cancer in kids. So they fought for more funding, and won.

It’s been a little less than a year since Joscelyn Laurence’s son, River, lost his battle with cancer. Her tattoo serves as a tribute to River’s curious personality.

At just 5 years old, River knew he wants to be a firefighter.

Judy Sanders lost her son, Alan, to cancer five years ago.

“Before Alan got sick, we had no idea how little childhood cancer research there was, only four cents of every dollar that the government spends,” Sanders noted.

Both moms fought the disease with their children and saw firsthand the gaps in research and funding of cancer treatment for kids.

“Science wasn’t where it needed to be to fix River. Nobody had ever seen some of the things that happened to River. There was no medical equipment to help,” Laurence said. “In the end, it was complications from treatment.”

“You tell your story, and doctors who do this every single day say, ‘We have no idea.’ And what do you say to that?” Sanders said.

That’s why, together and with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the moms have fought to pass the most comprehensive childhood cancer legislation ever.

And on Tuesday, a silver lining. President Donald Trump signed into law the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research Act, or the STAR Act. It authorizes $30 million annually from 2019 to 2023 for programs and research.

“To be able to find this funding to find better avenues of treating them means we don’t have to smany kids die from the complications of treatment that are not meant for them,” Sanders explained.

“It’s amazing. We were told, ‘It’s hard to get legislation through, so many bills are presented.’ The fact that it passed unanimously in both the Senate and House, it really underlies what a universal issue this is. Taking care of children is really a top priority,” Laurence said.

The law will also help survivors by looking into the latter effects of treatment.

And for both moms, the push for research is a way of honoring their children’s legacy.

“Quite a lot of us are bereaved moms that have nothing left to fight for except for our kids’ legacies,” Sanders said. “When we heard that the president would be signing this week, it’s just been a big party.”

And while these moms will never truly stop grieving, they plan to continue the fight for others, because they say there’s still a lot more to be done.

“The one thing that I can do instead of living in that grief is put my energy into this, into something that was bigger than River.” Laurence said. “Because it’s something that’s always going to be bigger than River.”

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