TERRE HAUTE — Raising awareness of childhood cancer is the hope of a Wabash Valley family who was surprised earlier this year when their “princess” — Parker Auterson, now age 4 — was diagnosed with cancer.
Wearing gold ribbons, which are recognized as the symbol of childhood cancer, Parker and her family met with Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett at city hall Thursday as he proclaimed the month of September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in the city.
“My goal is to let everyone know that the gold ribbon is for childhood cancer,” Parker’s mother Megan Auterson said. “Everyone knows the pink ribbon is for breast cancer, so I just want to raise awareness of the gold ribbon. I’m also asking businesses to ‘go gold’ on their marquees to raise awareness.”
Megan said her child showed no signs of illness prior to her diagnosis. Megan noticed a lump on Parker’s right side when she was giving the little girl a bath. She said she took Parker to the doctor to have the lump checked out, and a couple of weeks later, surgeons removed a two-pound tumor and Parker’s right kidney.
The little girl has been undergoing treatment of six rounds of radiation and 25 weeks of chemotherapy at Payton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.
Parker has been responding well to the treatment. She has not returned to preschool, to limit her exposure to germs in the environment, but her mother and her father Anthony Gossett expect her to be back in school after her treatments end. For now, the little girl enjoys playing with her cousin Ella Hunter, who is the same age.
Megan said she has done a lot of research on childhood cancer. Parker had what is called a Wilm’s tumor. The overall five-year survival rate is about 90 percent, especially when removed and treated early, as Parker’s has been.
Since her diagnosis and treatment began, Parker’s family has set up a Facebook page to inform the public about childhood cancer. The page is called “Princess Parker’s Progress,” and it features photos and updates of Parker’s journey.
One of Parker’s new friends at the mayor’s proclamation said he felt a close connection to Parker, because he saw her Facebook page just a couple of weeks after his own diagnosis with cancer.
Jonathan Vandevender, a detective with the Terre Haute Police Department, presented Parker with her own junior officer badge following the proclamation.
“It kind of keeps it in perspective,” Vandevender said of his own diagnosis. “I would much rather have cancer than have it affect any of my kids or this little girl.”
Parker’s grandmother Tammy “Mimi” Auterson said she appreciates the public support that her family has received through the Facebook page.
On Saturday, a motorcycle ride, silent auction and hog roast benefit was organized in honor of Parker at the Fallen Rock RV Parke and Campground.
On Monday, Parker’s family is walking in the annual Labor Day Parade in downtown Terre Haute to raise awareness. The public is invited to attend the parade to encourage Parker, and to visit her Facebook page.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.