Advocates grateful proposed budget includes dollars for pediatric cancer research
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Pictures on the wall inside the Lester family's home show Bennett's sweet smile. But knowing what she went through still brings her parents pain.
"There was no cure, there was no treatment plan, there was nothing," said Katie Ann Lester. "So they basically threw adult treatment at her. And we fought hard, but she lost her battle. And it's just a road I don't want any family to have to go through."
Bennett was diagnosed with cancer when she was just two-and-a-half years old, before passing away just shy of her fourth birthday.
Despite advances in detection and treatment of many types of cancer over the past several decades, advocates say for some diagnoses of childhood cancer (particularly for brain tumors) there are still no cures, no treatment plans and no hope for survival.
That is why they are thankful that Gov. Matt Bevin has included in his budget $5 million specifically for pediatric cancer research. Advocates say it is the first time a Kentucky governor has appropriated money for the cause.
Jamie Bloyd said she has worked with lawmakers and the governor to spread awareness about the prevalance of pediatric cancer and the importance of more research. She has also testified in front of legislative committees.
Bloyd's son, Paxton, was diagnosed with cancer when he was five. Now he is nine, and living the life of a normal kid.
"Every child, no matter their diagnosis, deserves hope for a cure," Bloyd said. "My son is one of the lucky ones. I don't know how lucky and childhood cancer go hand in hand, but he had a great prognosis from the very beginning, and I think that's very unfair."
While the budget process is just getting under way - and is, of course, subject to lots of give and take in the coming days as lawmakers work toward final passage - Bloyd and Lester hope this is a cause every lawmaker can support. It is too late for the Lester family, but they hope it can help others.
"It's a hard battle," Lester said. "If you saw what these kids went through, people would be knocking at Frankfort's door to give money."
Budget documents show that, if approved, the childhood cancer research allocation would come from tobacco settlement money - $2.5 million for each of the two fiscal years in the budget proposal.
You can read the governor's budget proposal here.