About a year ago, 36 men met on the soccer field at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois, in an attempt to break the Guinness Book’s record for the world’s longest soccer match. If spending an entire April weekend running back and forth between two goals sounds a little crazy, consider the cause: kicking childhood cancer.
Rob Steinkuehler, head coach of the Blackburn College men's soccer team, and his wife, Kellie, were raising money for pediatric brain cancer research, after experiencing a harrowing journey through cancer treatment for their 15-month-old son, Jackson.
An MRI at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Joe Buck Imaging Center in June of 2013 detected the malignant tumor. After four surgeries, several life-threatening complications, six weeks of radiation, four rounds of toxic chemotherapy and months of sleepless nights, Jackson got to ring the bell of the hospital’s hematology/oncology unit to signal the end of his cancer treatment.
Even better news came recently when Jackson’s third post-treatment scan came back with no trace of cancer.
“Christmas 2014 was a particularly happy time for us,” Kellie says. “We celebrated the first month in 18 that we didn’t have to visit the hospital. Surprisingly, we found ourselves homesick for the place. Every time I set foot there, I’m grateful for it. Everyone there is family to us.”
There will be more follow-up scans and appointments for Jackson in the months and years to come. His parents and caregivers will be on the lookout for late effects of his treatment. Meanwhile, for the Steinkuehlers, the fundraising continues. Last spring’s soccer match raised $50,000 for pediatric cancer research at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.
“We are determined to raise a total of $100,000,” Kellie says. “Our Jackson is back to being the happy little guy we knew before he was diagnosed, and Children’s Hospital is the reason for that.”