13-Year-Old Mass. Girl Wants to Help End Pediatric Cancer

About 10,000 kids under the age of 15 were diagnosed with cancer across the U.S. in 2017, according to the American Cancer Society. One child in Norwell, Massachusetts, wants to help bring that number down.

"I was lucky I had a cancer they could treat. Other kids don't have cancers they can treat," said Nikki Schindler, an eighth grader at Norwell Middle School.

At age 11, Schindler was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. After rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, she was deemed free of the disease in 2015. It was during that time that she and her family began to learn more about the illness and the lack of funding there is to research its cure.

"We are doing everything we can do, but we can't eradicate the cancer cells if they come back. We are counting on today's science and medicine to do that," said her father, Jerry Schindler.

But science and medicine can be slow to evolve. According to the National Pediatric Center Foundation, only 4 percent of federal government cancer research funding goes to study pediatric cancer.

That is why Schindler decided to try to help fund it herself.

After community members donated $5,000 to her family, Schindler decided to give it all to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she received treatment. Then, she became determined to raise even more money. Coming up with a design that read "Cure,” Schindler made and sold dozens of T-shirts around Norwell. Last month, she was able to present a $7,000 check to the hospital for research.

"It's really remarkable to see that. We've been struggling for decades now trying to get the government and foundations to support childhood cancer research," said Dr. Howard Weinstein, director of hematology and oncology at MGH.

Part of Schindler's focus has also been on raising awareness about the issue. She hopes the more people learn about childhood cancers, the more they will care.

"She always, always thought of other children. It's pretty unusual for a child of her age to be so intuitive," said Rhonda McIntyre, a registered nurse at MGH.

While Schindler is currently in remission, she has to undergo tests every three months to see if the illness has returned. Despite the stress surrounding it all, the 13-year-old is solely focused on the future.

"My hope is that I can help someone behind me," Schindler said. "I think I've made a good difference."

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