Georgia Mom Finds "Purpose" in Newborn's Cancer Diagnosis
By: Beth Galvin
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ATLANTA - When Kristin Connor began her career as a business litigator two decades ago, she thought she'd found her calling.
"Never, in 10 million years, could I ever have imagined this is what I would be doing," Connor says, talking about her current job.
But, in August of 2001, during a difficult pregnancy with her second son, Brandon, Connor's life changed.
"At 33 weeks, they were doing ultrasounds frequently, and they found a tumor on his spine," she says.
She began searching for what that tumor could be.
"And the worst was neuroblastoma, which is a very aggressive form of childhood cancer."
When Brandon was just 4 weeks old, doctors confirmed the worst.
"I remember calling my parents and just sobbing on the phone, and saying, 'How can a baby be born with cancer?'" Connor remembers.
Because Brandon had severe respiratory problems, doctors delayed surgery, until he was 2.
That's when and the Connors flew to San Francisco for the next step.
"We got out there and were preparing for the surgery, and they were doing all the scans, and discovered that his tumor had disappeared," she says. "This was the day before he was supposed to go for surgery."
Brandon's cancer was inexplicably gone.
"And it, to this day, it hasn't come back," Connor says. "I don't think there is really any scientific explanation for what happened."
But the suffering Connor saw in their two year journey changed her.
When she went back to work, she kept thinking about the families she'd met along the way.
"I would be in client meetings, with clients who had pretty serious business problems, and I found myself thinking, "Are you kidding me? This is not a problem! If you want to see a real problem, let's go over to Egleston and go to the bone marrow transplant floor, and there you've got some real problems.'"
So, Connor changed careers.
She's now leads the Atlanta-based CURE Childhood Cancer, which recently teamed up with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, on a $4.5 million dollar program to help kids with cancer who've run out of treatment options.
"Either the chemotherapy didn't work for them, or their cancer returned," she says. "Now, they will have their tumors genetically-mapped."
The genetic sequencing costs about $5,000 per child.
But CURE hopes it will allow doctors to target treatments, giving kids the breakthrough Connor says every family deserves.
"I just feel like it's my purpose, it's my purpose," Connor says. "I'm just sort of living my purpose."