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Taking action: Local family visits Capitol Hill to advocate for childhood cancer funding

By Tabitha Johnston, The Shepherdstown Chronicle

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — On Feb. 14, two Shepherdstown residents drove to Capitol Hill to join over 200 people from 22 states and Washington, D.C., in participation with the Alliance for Childhood Cancer’s Action Days 2024.

Joshua and Kathryn Armstrong served as spokespeople on behalf of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation — the largest charity funder of childhood cancer research grants and Alliance for Childhood Cancer co-chair — to share their family’s personal experience with childhood cancer and advocate for childhood cancer funding issues.

“My husband was halfway across the world on a training mission [for the West Virginia Army National Guard] when I took Laurel to her primary care provider, for what I thought was growing pains and a rash. That afternoon, I got the call that I never could have imagined getting,” Kathryn said. “They said, ‘Laurel has cancer.’ I remember feeling the world stop.”

Upon her diagnosis with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on Aug. 31, 2022, two-year-old Laurel was referred to WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital’s pediatric oncology/hematology team, with an appointment made to begin chemotherapy treatments the very next day. Kathryn immediately contacted her husband and the Red Cross — the vehicle through which at-home emergencies are verified for deployed military members.

“My company and state leadership were wonderful and coordinated to get me back home quickly,” Joshua said. “Still, by the time I arrived at the hospital, Laurel had already started chemotherapy.”

For two-and-a-half months, Laurel underwent treatments, before finally going into remission on Dec. 15, 2022.

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