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As far as cancer goes, there are not many cases of anaplastic large cell lymphoma in the United States.
Of the 1,638,910 that will be diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. in 2012 according to estimates put forth by the National Cancer Institute, only about 50,000 across the country will be cases of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Under that umbrella, it isn’t even officially known how many cases of anaplastic large cell lymphoma are diagnosed each year. according to Dr. Delong Liu, of New York Medical College.
As such, it was somewhat remarkable when Pam Witt and Kim Boyle got to talking in a Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia waiting room and discovered their sons, both with the first name Justin, had that same rare form of cancer.
“We’re sitting in a waiting room down at CHOP and they’re calling, ‘Justin!’” Witt, whose son goes by Zach instead of his first name, said. “We’re both looking at each other. ‘Which Justin?’”
“Talking with her, we found out our kids have the same exact kind of lymphoma, which is very rare for children,” Boyle said.
On top of everything, Witt and Boyle live fairly close to each other, with Witt residing in East Greenville and Boyle in Red Hill.
The uncanny nature of their situations struck both of them.
“I kind of felt like you hear about the stories but you never know them personally,” Boyle said. “It’s such a coincidence, we started to think about if there’s something environmental, if there’s something hat caused it.”
However, striking up a friendship has helped both mothers.
“It definitely helps you cope with the situation,” Boyle said.
“You connect with those people because you both understand what the other person is going through,” Witt said. “It’s neat, you have understanding because you’ve been there on the same road they have.”
Justin Boyle, 8, is doing well with his standard chemotherapy, Witt said. Zach Witt,7, didn’t respond the same way and is now taking a new pill as a part of a study that might be more effective for his case.
Because of their shared predicament and their want to help others that may be in the same boat, Boyle and Witt have decided to hold an Alex’s Lemonade Stand at the Bechtelsville Wal-Mart on Route 100.
It will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
Witt said she always wanted to do a fundraiser and finally decided to take the plunge with Boyle.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘We should do it together,’” Witt said. “We’ve been talking about it for a couple months.”
Boyle’s son was on-board from the get-go.
“I said, ‘Hey, do you want to do this?’ and he jumped right on it,” she said. “He’s getting excited for it.”
In the past, the Boyle’s have done the CHOP walk, but their full efforts are going toward the Alex’s Lemonade fundraiser this year.
Although she’s expecting a good turnout, Boyle said there are so many different types of fundraisers, she wished there was an easier way to combine them to provide more money for all types of cancer research.
“With rare types, there isn’t much money for research,” she said.
“At the rate they’re coming up with new treatments,” Boyle said, she believes a cure is possible.
The Witts went into the weekend fundraiser off a high. Through the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Zach and his parents were able to go down to Galveston Bay, Texas, for a fishing trip to meet with his older brother. Although Zach got a little seasick, he was able to catch a shark and had a blast with his parents.
The successful fundraiser Saturday might just keep the young cancer patient on Cloud Nine.
The Alex’s Lemonade Stand was held at the Bechtelsville Route 100 Wal-Mart’s entrance Saturday, Oct. 27.