When we are young, we have a picture in our minds about what life will look like when we become a teenager, find our best friends, and fall in love for the first time.

Nate in treatment for neuroblastoma.

By Antonia Palmer

When we become adults, the pictures in our minds change as we imagine life with a partner, children, and, hopefully, working in a job that we love.

As we grow older, the picture changes again to include grandchildren, life after work, and finding grace.

We create stories for ourselves throughout our lives and if you are lucky, those beautiful pictures you imagine and the stories that you tell yourself come true.

The pictures that we don’t imagine and the stories we don’t create are the ones where you are given a life-threatening diagnosis or when you are told that your child has cancer or when you hold your child with cancer for the last time.

For me, the pictures and stories that I created for myself changed on September 25, 2009, when my 2-year-old son Nate was diagnosed with stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma cancer. The stories changed again on November 25, 2010, when he suffered a neuroblastoma relapse in the brain. Most recently, on July 21, the stories changed again when we were told that Nate has thyroid cancer — my two-time survivor will fight cancer for the third time.

Nate posing in his Superman outfit.

As you can see on his t-shirt in the picture, Nate loves Superman. He loves his integrity, his strength, and his desire to help people in need. Nate is my Superman. He, and his two younger brothers, are my reasons why and why I changed my story from being a Systems Engineer to a childhood cancer research advocate.

I have the great pleasure of being a part of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation -Stand Up To Cancer Pediatric Cancer Dream Team. As part of this initiative, I am a member of a brilliant and dedicated group of pediatric cancer research advocates who represent the various institutions involved. We also represent the patients, caregivers, and families — helping to tell their stories and show their pictures to continually remind people WHY childhood cancer research is important and WHY this work is so deeply necessary.

In speaking for all of the Advocates on the Pediatric Cancer Dream Team, we want you to know that we see you. We see the oncologists who give up so much of themselves to save the lives of our children who have been diagnosed with cancer. We see the sacrifices that you make in the service of our children — you are extraordinary, selfless, and inspiring. We see the researchers working long hours in laboratories to push the understanding of pediatric cancer forward. We see you fighting your way through experiment after experiment in hopes of making life-saving discoveries. We see the foundations and charities constantly striving to raise more funds for cancer research and advocating for change to create better systems.

Antonia’s three sons: Alex (left), Nate (middle), Jonathan (right) in 2021.

Every one of us has the same common goal. We are all on the same team. This isn’t a team that any advocate ever pictured they would be a part of. When we were kids or even when we became parents, we didn’t picture challenging pharmaceutical companies or meeting with government officials to talk about drug access. But, as our life stories changed because of childhood cancer, we couldn’t be more thankful and grateful that you are all here and that we are all working together to find solutions to very complex problems.

When I think ahead, the stories and pictures that I hold in my mind and heart are all clearly built around the belief that teams like the Pediatric Cancer Dream Team will one day find cures for childhood cancer. I fully believe this and I see this picture in brilliant technicolor high-fidelity detail. This story of cure that I tell myself is one I hope I am lucky enough, one I hope that we are all lucky enough, to see come true.

We’re a volunteer-powered charity committed to funding the most promising childhood cancer research grants. www.stbaldricks.org