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For the Love of Sam: Benefit to Aid Delta County Child With Neuroblastoma

Children are special gifts. They are so innocent and loving. All it takes is a smile, to light up the day.

Sam Duckworth is just an example of such innocence. Sandy blond hair, blue eyes and a flirtatious personality makes this little three-year old irresistible.

In his short life, he has already overcome more obstacles than some people do their entire lives. 

In fact he is a miracle child, born just nine months after his father, Jon, completed chemotherapy for testicular cancer.

“To add to it, I had been diagnosed with thyroid antibodies and natural killer cells which meant that whenever I conceived, my body would attack the growing fetus and try and kill it,” described his mother, Jessica, in an online journal detailing his experience. “The odds were not in our favor to have another child. Yet on June 29, 2009 to the amazement of everyone, Samuel Troy Dean Duckworth was born, healthy. He has been a blessing and a joy to behold.”

As if this young family’s health hadn’t been tested enough, on Jan. 20, 2010, a mass the size of a golf ball was found on the base of Sam’s neck.

“Fear like we had never known gripped our hearts,” said his mother. The little warrior’s battle began on Feb. 1, 2010, being diagnosed with stage 2B neuroblastoma – the same day his mother started her work with the 21st Century Afterschool program at Cooper High School. “If cancer does anything for a family, it brings about a sense of awareness that you don't always have, to appreciate each day and to not take any moment for granted.”

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Childhood cancer is a reality, it does happen, no one is immune – the only requirement, that you're a child. The statistics are astounding, 4,000 children and young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year.

In honor of the Duckworth’s family growing medical expenses local citizens, organized by Jimmy and Sue Allen, Colette Newman and the ladies from the Church at Klondike will be hosting a bake sale at 8 a.m. Friday, Sept. 14 in front of the First National Bank on the Square in Cooper. Donations accepted. The Church is also hosting a benefit on Oct. 6, including a meal, silent auction, bounce house and a cake walk to help the family.

With the generosity of others, the family has also started their own way to cope with cancer. They are selling T-shirts, buttons and bracelets. To find out how to purchase any of these e-mail sams_warriors@yahoo.com. The funds collected help support Sam’s Warriors. Sam is being treated primarily at Children’s Medical Center Dallas.

“Treatments for childhood cancer haven’t changed in years. Kids with Neuroblastoma are given the same types of chemo drugs that my husband took for testicular cancer, drugs that have caused a grown man to have neuropathy in his feet, hearing loss, loss of muscle...these are the drugs that kids fighting the same cancer my son has are taking,” said Jessica. “People don’t like to look at the realities, and I get that because they are not pretty, but we have to get beyond ourselves and what makes us uncomfortable and start advocating for changes.”

Together the high school sweethearts have three children, 10-year old Emma, Sam and 1-year old Lillee. Jon travels from their home in Cooper to work in product management at EZ-Flo International in Rockwall.

“So, while I wish I could tell you Sam is cancer free, at this time, I cannot,” said Jessica, after Sam had been considered stable for about two years. However last October, doctors noticed a change in his clavicle area where his original tumor was located. Due to the location, they aren’t able to biopsy it for fear of damaging nerves. The family also learned in July that Sam has another condition known as a Mild Chiari 1 Malformation. They are scheduled to see a neuro surgeon to determine if brain surgery is needed to correct this issue. “We simply do not have enough information to know that for sure…. However, Sam has already won this battle, He is a child of God, and the battle was won a long time ago.”