(Vienna 15.02.2021) Sabine Schwarz has known St. Anna Children's Cancer Research Institute (St. Anna CCRI) for a long time. But just over a year ago, the research facility became a very special place for her. A place where war on cancer is declared. “Because not least through your research my child survived”, she tells us in an interview on the occasion of the International Childhood Cancer Day on February 15th.
Exactly one year and one month ago, on January 15th, 2020, Sabine Schwarz' world came crashing down. A few days earlier, Edi, her six-year-old son, was out of breath after a short exertion, his face had turned completely pale and his lips had turned bluish. The suspected diagnosis of "leukemia" on the laboratory report seemed unreal for Sabine Schwarz at first. "I thought this can only be a mistake. It can't be true. It doesn't affect me, it doesn't affect my child," she says.
"But it didn’t help to bury our heads in the sand. So, we picked Edi up from school and took him to the hospital." After one day with a series of tests, the diagnosis of leukemia was confirmed late at night.
Deep gratitude for cancer research
"We were dreading the discussion of results with the physician. Leukemia? That automatically makes you think of death."
It was not until the attending physician explained that Edi's form of leukemia was curable in 80 percent of the cases that Sabine Schwarz "had a load lifted from her shoulders. That may have been naïve, but from then on we blocked out the fact that it could also end badly."
For Sabine Schwarz, the high cure rate was not only a cause for optimism, but also for deep gratitude. "I am more than happy that people have invested heavily in research and that this opened up so many treatment possibilities. I know that the chances for cure used to be much worse. Today, four out of five children with leukemia are cured. It used to be one in five in earlier days. That's close to insane."
Sabine Schwarz will support St. Anna CCRI as much as she can in the future: "Now, I want to return something to the institute. I think it is really important. I didn't realize before that St. Anna CCRI is financed almost exclusively by donations." Nor did she realize how much affected parents benefit from the research results. "My child lives partly because of you guys”, she tells the scientists. “Research is constantly being carried out, and as a result better and new treatment options are developed." Today Sabine Schwarz is more aware of this than ever before.
Defeating the malignant disease
The days and weeks following diagnosis sapped the energy of the entire family. "The time just flew by. Nothing else was important. Just the child and the malignant disease that had to be conquered.
"Now, after more than a year, Edi is doing much better." He is allowed to go back to school already, at least for individual lessons. "He is very happy and in mathematics he is even ahead of the school’s schedule due to studying at home."
Art against cancer
How Sabine Schwarz deals with the fear for her child? "Distraction helps a lot. For example, I launched the Art Against Cancer project." In this project, children learn in a playful way what is important in photography. Under guidance and with the help of numerous practical tips, children can try out photography. Finally, the best photo is printed and a fancy frame is crafted together (www.sabine-schwarz.com/kunst-gegen-krebs). "I came up with the idea, when I realized how much my son benefited from the crafting and painting in the hospital." A part of the donated funds from Schwarz's "Art Against Cancer" project and her "Lebensfloh" photo calendar are donated to St. Anna CCRI. "I want to give something back."