2006 Sunshine Kids National SpokesKid
||Thirteen-year-old Katie Vaught of Manteca, CA fills her days with eighth grade class work, playing tennis and sewing. This coming year she will add being a Sunshine Kids SpokesKid to her activities.
Diagnosed with Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma in September 2004, Katie was in and out of the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital on the Stanford University campus over the next nine months. She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to amputate her left leg below the knee.
The summer of 2005, Katie went on the SSK trip to New York City where she took in two Broadway shows and the Blue Man Group and stayed in the Westin Hotel, where the designers on her favorite show, “Project Runway” show now stay.
“I still keep in contact with most of the girls (on the trip) and we plan to visit each other soon,” Katie explained. “It was great because some of the kids had the same problems as me.” Katie even had to overcome navigating the Big Apple without the aid of a prosthesis, which she now has mastered.
“I think being a SpokesKid is going to be really fun because I like to help other kids understand what’s going on with cancer,” Katie said. “I never knew how (prevalent) cancer was but a lot of people really do have it and I was really honored that they asked me to do this.”
In the future Katie hopes to go to college and eventually become a fashion designer. She is supported by her parents, Don and Aecha, and siblings, Tiffany and Chris and the family dachshund, Dixie.
2006 Sunshine Kids National SpokesKid
||Mary Billington has been a cancer survivor almost since birth and during 2006 she will share her story and experiences as the 2006 Sunshine Kids Spokeskid with supporters and volunteers across the country.
The Brooklyn, New York teen was first diagnosed with Retinoblastoma at the age of six months.
“I underwent a month of radiation treatment and although the cancer caused severe visual impairment (legal blindness), I was perfectly healthy for 11 years,” Mary explained.
At the age of 12 she was diagnosed with Osteogenic Sarcoma in her right sinus. She endured a 14-hour surgery in which her right eye had to be removed followed by a year-long protocol of chemotherapy.
“Again I was healthy for several years, but when I was 15 and a freshman in high school a mass showed up on a routine chest CT,” she explained. “I underwent surgery in an effort to remove the mass, but it turned out that what appeared to be a mass near my heart was actually in my heart.”
A month later she underwent a successful open heart operation to remove the tumor and as a precautionary measure underwent a year-long protocol of chemotherapy, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Caner Center in New York. Her last bout with cancer landed her on a trip to the Sunshine Kids Texas Hill Country Adventure in 2003.
“It was one of the best experiences I have ever had.” Mary recalled. “I was taken from the monotonous hospital setting I had become accustomed to and was given the opportunity to chase goats and ride on the back of a Harley (Davidson motorcycle).”
“It was a bit extreme but it was what I needed to feel like a normal teenager again.” She explained, adding that the best part of the trip was the people she met from the Foundation staff, nurses, volunteers and other Sunshine Kids.
“I no longer felt like I was the kid with cancer,” she said. “In Texas, surrounded by people who knew and understood what I was going through, I was able to be Mary again.”
“Because everyone was in the same situation, we were able to joke around and make fun of each other. We were able to make light of a serious situation and truly enjoy ourselves. This was something that I desperately needed.”
Sharing her experiences as a Sunshine Kid will be Mary’s role as a SSK SpokesKid in the coming year and she hopes to effectively communicate the organization’s message and mission.
A senior at NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies, Mary plans to attend college and to study either education or psychology and hopes to become a teacher some day.