Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO) champions childhood cancer care. When a child is battling cancer, we ensure that child, and family, have lifelong access to the best care for the best possible outcomes.
About POGO (PEDIATRIC ONCOLOGY GROUP OF ONTARIO)
Pediatric Oncology Financial Assistance Program
When a child is diagnosed with cancer, "normal" life turns upside down. Families face additional challenges as out-of-pocket costs mount and income is lost because parents take time from work to be with the ill child. POGO studies show that the typical family—usually young and not well-established financially—loses 1/3 of their after-tax income each year.
POGO's financial assistance helps many families cope with the unexpected out-of-pocket costs associated with their child's cancer treatment—costs such as food, accommodation and child care.
When POGO assumed administration of the program in 2003, we distributed $500,000 annually to families in need. Several factors have since driven us to expand the program:
- Rising costs due to inflation
- New treatment protocols requiring kids to be in hospital for longer
- New options to treat relapsed patients, putting more kids back in the system
- Bone marrow transplantation (applied to more and more cases) happen in Toronto, requiring families to travel and stay for extended periods of time
Last year, POGO provided over $898,000 to over 986 families across Ontario.
"POGO and the funding they provide allowed our family to stay together and get through our child's initial diagnosis and relapse. POGO supported us financially with things like babysitting and paid for us to stay at the Ronald McDonald House for 3 years at $300 a month! We thank you for allowing our family to have the support of POGO." –Charbonneau family
My name is Aimee. Nearly 3 years ago, I was running down the soccer field, our team on a break-away, and suddenly I collapsed. My femur had fractured. I was immediately rushed to the hospital. An x-ray confirmed that it was a spiral fracture, but there was a dark shadow near the site of the break.
Days later, a biopsy was taken from my bone. A week went by and we tried not to think about the worst case scenario...cancer. Then the day came when we would receive the results, just days before my birthday. I had trouble saying it. Osteosarcoma—the same cancer that claimed Terry Fox. I asked the doctor if I was going to die. Everybody cried. He said no.
After 3 months of brutal chemotherapy, the day had come for the surgery. I was only 12 and I was worried that my leg would have to be amputated. In a 19-hour procedure, the surgical team removed my broken femur, replaced it with a donor bone and more hardware than you can find in Home Depot, and they were able to save my leg.
This past February, marks 3 years that I am cancer free!
I would like to thank POGO for being there for me. POGO supported my family through our daily challenges in ways I'm only just learning about. My life has now changed because of cancer. I was forced to grow up faster than I was ready. Maybe no one is ever really ready to face cancer. Thankfully, my family and I didn't have to face it alone. I may have a scar from my hip to my ankle, but with the help of POGO, I am stronger than ever!
SAVTI (Successful Academic and Vocational Transition Initiative)
Just 30 years ago the survival rate was only 60%; now more than 82% of children diagnosed with cancer are cured and become survivors. This is an amazing accomplishment, but survival itself is not sufficient. As many as 60% of this population will face a lifetime of complications that are a direct result of their childhood disease and/or the treatment they received.
Many survivors face physical and emotional challenges that they must learn to overcome. Sadly, some childhood cancers, such as brain tumours, can also result in learning difficulties and other cognitive issues. There are approximately 3,000 Ontario survivors that currently struggle with slowed rate of information processing, poor working memory, increased forgetfulness and organic-based inertia, often compounded by impaired vision or hearing, persistent fatigue and more.
Prior to SAVTI, there were no special supports to address these issues. Since 2002, POGO counsellors have been working with survivors to help them identify a realistic career path, prepare for it and move on to economic independence. POGO provides personalized supports with things like:
- matching career goals with abilities
- providing tools and strategies to manage school work
- facilitating scholarships
- linking survivors with the appropriate services and supports within colleges, universities or the community
Last year, our counsellors empowered 300 survivors to finish high school, attend university or college and/or find meaningful employment.
My name is Fernando and I am 23 years old. I was diagnosed with a tumour when I was almost five. Since that time, I have had 2 major brain surgeries and 8 shunt revisions, but I still have a tumour in my head.
Over the years, my entries and re-entries into school were not easy. After my first operation, I had to wear a helmet because my skull was too sensitive and I couldn't risk being knocked in the head. As you can imagine, this disqualified me from sports. I was bugged, teased and never invited to events because the kids couldn't accept what I was going through. My right side suffered great nerve damage and the results were obvious. Kids were scared of getting to know the kid with cancer.
When I was in grade 11, tests showed that the tumour had started to grow. Worse still, it was no longer on the side of my head but had moved to a more dangerous position—behind my brainstem. I had to get a second major brain surgery which had its complications, including that I almost slipped into a coma because of the spinal fluid building up in my head.
It is no surprise that having a tumour and a couple of brain surgeries has affected me much more then socially:
- I have had to learn how to use my left hand. I was originally right handed before my operation, but my entire right side has been damaged.
- My balance is awful. I swerve or bump into things; uneven ground is hard for me to navigate.
- My working memory, processing speed and ability to comprehend have suffered because of the radiation to my head.
- School is difficult. I cannot multi-task, it takes all of my concentration to complete the job at hand and I find it hard to listen and take notes at the same time.
My dream since I was a child has been to create video games. Now, with the help of Sarah, my POGO counsellor, I am finally making that dream a reality.
- I am currently finishing my first year in the Game Development Program at Algonquin College.
- I am on ODSP and OSAP, as well as two cancer survivor scholarships and more bursaries to help finance my education.
- I have an individualized study program that will give me special accommodations to manage my challenges (such as a note taker in class and extra time for tests and assignments).
And to end on a high note, my last round of radiation was in 2008 and I have been in remission ever since!
I am very grateful to the donors of the SAVTI program. Through your support of POGO, you are supporting survivors like me.