Rylee Buchanan, 7, daughter of Brett and Jessica Buchanan of Holly Springs, and Laura Stewart, 18, of Towne Lake will share their stories of survival during the 10th Annual Care-A-Thon. The radio broadcast fundraiser benefits the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
Scott Slade, host of "Atlanta Morning News," and fellow AM 750 and Now 95.5 FM News/Talk WSB Radio personalities Neal Boortz and Clark Howard will broadcast the fundraiser from 5 a.m. today through 6 p.m. on Friday.
Listeners not only will hear the stories of Ms. Stewart, Rylee and other Georgia patients, but will also have a chance to bid on auction items and donate to the Aflac Cancer Center.
Suzy Scheiblin, development officer with the Aflac Cancer Center, said about 30 cancer patients and their families will participate in pre-taped or live interviews.
The goal, she said, is to raise around $1 million this year, which is the same amount collected during last year's Care-A-Thon.
"We're always blown away by the support of all those who call in," she said.
Ms. Scheiblin said doctors, nurses and child life specialists recommend families who they think would be great to participate in the broadcast.
Rylee will go live at about 3:45 p.m. Friday with Howard, and Ms. Stewart will share her story with Captain Herb Emory and Mark Arum at 1:45 p.m. Friday.
"It's a great cause," Ms. Stewart said, adding this is her third time participating in the fundraiser.
Mrs. Buchanan said her daughter, who is shy, has grown accustomed to doing "new and different" things as a result of her condition and is excited about the fundraiser.
Rylee has Optic Nerve Glioma, a tumor on her optic nerve. When she was 6 months old, she was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type 1, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerve endings throughout the body.
As part of her condition, Rylee undergoes routine MRIs to check for any abnormalities.
The tumor on her optic nerve was discovered when she was young, but it wasn't until an MRI was performed last year that doctors discovered the tumor had grown. It had also moved from just her left optic nerve into what is called the chiasm, where the individual optic nerves intersect.
Complications of the tumor mean Rylee could partially or entirely lose her vision, Mrs. Buchanan said.
The tumor, she said, also could affect Rylee's hypothalamus, the part of the brain that produces hormones that regulate hunger, body temperature, moods, sleep and thirst, among other functions.
Rylee undergoes chemotherapy once a week for four weeks and has two weeks off. She will repeat this cycle until mid February. Mrs. Buchanan said the results of a recent MRI show the tumor is responding well to chemotherapy, and Rylee has not experienced any vision loss.
Mrs. Buchanan said she's been heartbroken over Rylee -as well as other children's -battle with cancer.
"I never envisioned us having to do this," she said of chemotherapy. "We didn't want this to be a childhood memory for her."
Ms. Stewart was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a tumor in her right femur, while a sophomore at Etowah High School.
Doctors discovered a tumor after Ms. Stewart went in for an X-ray on her knee due to the pain she felt while practicing for cross-country.
Ms. Stewart said she can vividly recall the doctor saying, "We think this is cancer."
"I never though it could happen to me," she added.
After she was diagnosed, Ms. Stewart had eight months of extensive chemotherapy at the Aflac Cancer Center.
Ms. Stewart finished chemotherapy in April 2008, but the cancer returned in September 2009 when doctors during a routine scan discovered a metastasis in her left lung and had surgery to remove the nodule.
Her troubles didn't end there. In January, Ms. Stewart had sharp chest pains and her parents requested a scan.
Doctors found the cancer returned, and Ms. Stewart had lung surgery to remove another 18 tumors. She had another four rounds of intensive inpatient chemotherapy at Aflac, and she is on an outpatient chemotherapy clinical trial with the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
While a student at Etowah, Ms. Stewart was the president of the National Honor Society and worked with Woodstock High School to coordinate a school district-wide relief project for Haiti. She served as a delegate for Etowah for the Cherokee County school board.
Despite her illness, Ms. Stewart graduated from Etowah in May and attended the graduation ceremonies. She said she hopes to start classes at the University of Georgia next semester, where she wants to study to become a child life specialist.
Her cancer battle, Ms. Stewart said, has brought her closer to her family and friends, and she now appreciates the importance of living every day to the fullest.
"I enjoy the time I have because I'm not guaranteed tomorrow," she said.
Mrs. Buchanan said she and her husband and younger son Blake, 4, have remained positive in the face of Rylee's battle.
"I know it can be tough," she said. "We are working our way through it."
Rylee, a student of the online Georgia Virtual Academy, likes to draw and read, but suffers from lower energy levels and does physical therapy to help with her strength and flexibility.
Ms. Stewart added she wants listeners who tune in today and tomorrow to understand life is "bigger than themselves," and the kids and families battling cancer often have trying times, but forge ahead.
Mrs. Buchanan said she hopes listeners learn the value and importance the Aflac Cancer Center has for hundreds of families like her.
"I can't put into words how grateful I am," she said. "They make her (Rylee) feel so special all the time."