WESTLAKE, OH (WOIO) - While October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month for most moms, just as important as their own health is the health of their children. They get cancer, too, but it's not something we hear much about. It's a problem one Westlake mother is trying to fix, since she has a two-time child cancer survivor.
Angie Giallourakis enjoys spending time with her youngest son, Steven, who is now 25. She calls him her "miracle child." The two are on a mission together to raise awareness and research funds for the many, very aggressive childhood cancers.
"Our message about child and adolescent cancer is that it happens. It happens every day," said Giallourakis.
It happened to Steven when he was 15, but he still remembers it well today.
"It was kind of surreal. You don't really know what to think at the time," he said.
His mom says he was in perfect health, very active, and very happy until his leg started bothering him. For the longest time, they say it was believed to be an athletic injury. By the time doctors figured out it was actually bone cancer, it was already in stage 4.
"It was awful and I really didn't think my son was going to be here. I really didn't," Giallourakis recalls.
After months of treatment, including spinal surgeries, Steven was believed to be cancer free. But then he's hit with leukemia at age 17. It was even more life-threatening and would involve a tougher recovery.
"It shows you what's important in life," said Steven.
It showed his mother what she needed to do to help others facing childhood cancer.
With Steven by her side, she has become an advocate for child cancer research and awareness, even starting a foundation named after Steven to raise scholarship money for those at Case Western Reserve University going into pediatric oncology. She works tirelessly on Capitol Hill arguing the case for more research money. She visits hospitalized cancer patients with goodie bags full of items she knows they need, like aromatherapy and inspirational books.
She explains it all like this, "if you throw a pebble in the water, you are going to make a wave."
With that, she points out some startling facts from the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer. Childhood cancers are the number one disease killer for U.S. children and one out of 285 are diagnosed in the U.S. every year, a number that's only going up. You can see her frustration when she explains only 4 percent of federal research dollars go to children's cancer; the rest is used for adult cancers.
To get in touch with Angie Giallourakis, to donate or learn more about her cause, visit her website.