Health Check: Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

It's become an annual event at the Rhode Island State House.

"And today does mark the kickoff of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and I'm again very proud to be honoring the 2013 ambassadors," Gov. Lincoln Chafee said Thursday.

"This is Olivia. She's 9 years old. We were diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma last March and we went through chemotherapy," said Kristin Cataldi.

But for Olivia and the dozens of others who've battled or continue to battle cancer in Southern New England, Thursday's kickoff is a celebration.

"They receive medals of accomplishment and they receive a proclamation. They get their photos taken. They get interviewed and it's a wonderful day," said Barbara Ducharme of the Tomorrow Fund.

It's nice to feel like a rock star, like someone special in front of an audience, especially when you consider what these kids go through.

Eric Rollins is one of the older children achieving ambassador status. He's 19. He was 17 when he was diagnosed.

"I was having pain in my leg and I got it checked out and I guess it turned out to be a cancerous tumor," Eric said.

"He was diagnosed with bone cancer. We're still waiting for him to heal," Shannon McKinnon, Eric's mother, said.

The month is dedicated to raising awareness.

"We need to bring awareness to the wonderful treatment that is available at Hasbro Children's Hospital," Ducharme said.

And it's about bringing awareness to all the Tomorrow Fund does, providing support -- both financial and emotional -- to kids with cancer and their families.

"They helped with any problem that we had, any situation. Took very good care of Eric," McKinnon said.

And while more and more children are being successfully treated for cancer, we're still losing some amazing young people to the disease. And those parents were honored at the State House as well.

"We're an adoption agency. We're very specific. We adopt children with cancer and their families. We take them through treatment and beyond to whatever the outcome will be," Ducharme said.

More than 90 percent of children diagnosed with cancer in Southern New England -- that includes Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut -- are treated in the Tomorrow Fund clinic at Hasbro Children's Hospital. The Tomorrow Fund is there to help them navigate that process.