While living in Kentucky during 2003, Kara and Dan Heck received the devastating news that their 3-year-old daughter Malia had a rare spinal cord tumor. The condition, called intramedullary astrocytoma, was so rare that the Hecks had to go to Baltimore to find a doctor to treat the condition. A surgery that removed most of the tumor was performed on Malia. Today, Malia is leading a healthy, active life.
But in most cases spinal cord tumors do return. The Heck family decided to take action against the deadly disease to find a cure, not just for their daughter, but for others suffering from this rare disease.
In 2004 they founded Malia's CORD Foundation, which hopes to raise awareness of spinal cord tumors and support medical research for a cure. CORD stands for Cure for Others through Research and Development. The Heck family believes research into spinal cord tumors also will benefit the treatment of other types of tumors.
The CORD Foundation has been so successful that it is even awarding research grants to medical professionals interested in taking on the disease. Chapters of the CORD Foundation have been formed including one named for 23-year old Nichole from Philadelphia. Her story is also one of determination and bravery.
Nichole was living with friends at the Jersey shore in 2003 when she developed numbness in her legs and difficulty walking. Her worst fears were realized when a large tumor was found in her spine and it turned out to be a very aggressive cancer. Nichole had to undergo chemotherapy.
While in a fight for her life Nichole still started her senior year at Ursinus College, taking courses at home during the chemotherapy treatment, then in the spring semester returning to campus despite difficulty moving, medical treatments, and complications. Despite all that was against her, Nichole become a college graduate in May of 2004! Nichole's character and determination had won a round against the devastating disease.
But the struggle continued. In April of 2005 Nichole experienced massive pain in her leg and had to be hospitalized for the weekend. She slipped into a coma the following Monday and passed away with friends and family by her side. The determined young woman had lost her struggle with the disease. But her spirit keeps on fighting through Nichole's CORD Foundation, a chapter of Malia's CORD Foundation.
A MySpace page has been put up to help in Nichole's quest to find a cure for spinal cord tumors.
Other stories of the fight against spinal cord tumors are posted on the CORD Foundation website. You can read about 7-year-old Kennedy from Wilton, Connecticut and her continuing struggle against the disease, one which has spanned half of her young life. Kennedy has a CORD Foundation chapter in her own name.
The latest branch is Steven's CORD foundation in Missouri, named after a junior in high school afflicted with a spinal cord tumor. The CORD Foundation and its chapters depend on the public for support, whether it be monetary donations, gifts for their events, or just spreading the word to others about their mission. For more information please visit the CORD Foundation website.