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Family Picture 2007

Family Picture 2007

On May 26, 2006, our four year old daughter, Naomi Harmon-Kirksey, was diagnosed with cancer–specifically, undifferentiated sarcoma. Sarcoma is a cancer with many sub-categories, and identifying the category is fundamental in treating the patient. Undifferentiated sarcomas are soft tissue cancers of unknown origins. Because the origins are unknown, effective treatments for undifferentiated sarcomas are very elusive and only 1% of children live five years past the initial diagnosis.

Naomi died exactly four and half years after her first diagnosis.  She went through surgery, ten months of chemotherapy and also radiation.  After three years of remission, Naomi relapsed in December of 2009 and lost her battle in October of 2010.

During our journey with Naomi, we learned a lot of sometimes heart-wrenching information. We learned that in addition to undifferentiated sarcoma, there are other categories of pediatric cancers with poor patient outcomes. We learned that certain children–like Naomi–are resistant to chemotherapy. We also learned that groundbreaking research is the key to saving children’s lives from pediatric cancers, but that federal funds needed to start up and sustain medical research are getting tighter and tighter by the year; medical research funding is now increasingly coming from the pockets of individuals and private organizations.

In 2011, we became part of the pediatric cancer solution by taking our first steps in forming Naomi’s Fund. Naomi’s Fund is a Chicago-based [501c3] organization dedicated to raising the survival rates of pediatric cancers and keeping alive the memories of children who have lost the battle. While our work involves promoting the awareness and quality of care of pediatric cancers, our primary mission is to raise research funds.

We know that pediatric cancer research can save children’s lives. Because of research, the five-year survival rate of all pediatric cancers combined increased from 58 percent in 1975–77 to just over 80 percent in 2001-2007. But what this statistic doesn’t say is that 20 percent of children undergoing chemotherapy do not respond to the treatment and are dying today just as they did decades ago. And that’s only one example of life-ending trends in pediatric cancer that have persisted for too long. Naomi’s Fund seeks to stop those trends by promoting pediatric cancer awareness, care and research.

Won’t you be part of the pediatric cancer solution by joining with us?



Tracey Harmon and Clifton Kirksey