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Courageous Irondequoit Girl Triumphing Over Hodgkins Disease

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Last September, Catherine “Cat” Langley celebrated a family reunion in the Adirondacks, where she swam, snorkeled, and played on the shores of Lake Champlain.

A week later, the fourth-grader learned she had cancer.

Her mother, Sally Langley, remembers that day vividly. “I was at school, and Cat went skipping down the hall,” Langley says. “She said she had a bump on her neck that felt sore when she shrugged, and she was going to see the nurse.”

Diagnosed with Hodgkins disease, Cat received months of intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Even so, she excelled in school, and maintained a remarkable outlook that sustained her family. Cat is one of five Miracle Kids who will be featured during the Golisano Children’s Hospital Telethon June 4-5 on 10NBC.

“Cat was a perfectly healthy child,” Sally Langley says. “But when I saw her at school that day – Sept. 10, 2003 – I knew something was wrong. She had been losing a bit of weight and had been tired, but I attributed that to a growth spurt – she had grown 4.5 inches that year – and a busy back-to-school schedule.”

Langley took Cat to her pediatrician, Michael Holmes, M.D. “Without hesitation, he sent us for blood work and a chest X-ray, but he already suspected,” Langley says. “Before we got back to his office with the results of the X-rays, he had been on the phone with Dr. Korones.”

 David Korones, M.D., a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, consulted with George Drugas, M.D., one of the hospital’s three general pediatric surgeons. The following day, Drugas performed a biopsy, which confirmed the tumor was cancerous. “The tumor in her chest was very large, and we knew there was a chance it might cut off blood supply to the heart,” Korones says. It displaced Cat’s lungs, and she also had tumors in her abdomen and spleen.

“Dr. Korones told us from the get-go that Cat had a long, dark tunnel ahead of her, but that there was light at the end,” Langley says. “We held on to that for dear life.”

Cat was hospitalized for a week before starting what doctors intended to be chemotherapy on an outpatient basis. But the girl’s body had a poor reaction to the drugs, and she was admitted to the hospital, a pattern that would repeat itself during the first four days of each subsequent eight-day treatment session. The treatment was a success.

“When Cat finished her chemotherapy, we threw a party for her nurses, who were so wonderful,” Langley says. “I went to write them a note, and Cat said, ‘Can I write it?’ And she wrote, ‘Thanks for making this fun.’ It really choked me up. It says so much about her, and it also says so much about the people who helped her get through this.”

After finishing chemotherapy, Cat received radiation treatments under the guidance of Sandy Constine, M.D., a pediatric radiology oncologist. Each weekday, she received a dose that was aimed at her neck, chest, or abdomen. She completed radiation therapy on Friday, March 13. The family refers to that Friday the 13th as “our lucky day.”

Today, Cat is on the mend. At 87 pounds, she weighs more now than she did when she was diagnosed, and she is in the 93rd percentile for height. She visits Golisano Children’s Hospital monthly for blood draws and a check-up, and will have four CT scans and chest X-rays a year to ensure she is doing well. She and her family – her mom, Sally, her father, Ken, her identical twin sister, Heather, and older sister, Megan, 15 – enjoy spending time together, realizing the importance of living each day to the fullest.

Cat is an incredibly courageous kid,” Langley says. “She faced every hurdle with an incredible amount of grace, poise, strength and unwavering courage. Frankly, she got her parents through this. I remember the day she found out she was going to lose her hair. She was the one who never wanted to cut her hair. When they told her the news, she was very upset, but shortly after, as I wheeled her out of her room for a test, she said, ‘You know, mom, I’ve always wanted to try cute, short hairstyles, but never had the courage. Maybe this is my chance.’” Today, her beautiful hair is growing quickly!

Miracle Weekend provides a fun way to support Golisano Children’s Hospital and help the children it serves. Proceeds will help fund priority projects, such as a Pediatric Surgical Suite, which will enhance the surgical experience for children like Cat.  Miracle Weekend includes two major events – a telethon and a fund-raising walk. The Children’s Miracle Network Telethon to benefit Golisano Children’s Hospital will be broadcast live from the hospital lobby from 8 to 11 p.m. Friday, June 4, and 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, June 5, on 10NBC.

Registration for the Stroll for Strong Kids starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 5; the Stroll kicks into high gear at 11 a.m. Participants will receive free lunch by Subway, and Gary the Happy Pirate will provide entertainment. Last year, some 1,300 people took part, helping to raise more than $143,000 for Golisano Children’s Hospital. To register for the Stroll for Strong Kids, or learn more about Miracle Weekend, call 585-273-5948.

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