In 2010, Anna was having back pain. At first the doctors thought it was strained muscles or constipation, but just before her fourth birthday, Anna was diagnosed with Stage 4 Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive soft tissue cancer.
Anna began an aggressive treatment plan that consisted of 54 weeks of chemotherapy and 28 days of radiation. After several months of treatment, Anna was considered to be in remission, and continued with her treatment plan.
Words can not describe how difficult it was for her to endure all the medical procedures she went though, but Anna had a strength and grace that seemed beyond her age. She often worried about others more than herself, and she had a light about her that spread to those around her. Her smile and laugh could melt any heart. At other times she acted every bit the preschooler that she was. She was silly, sassy and very strong willed, especially when it came to taking medicine she didn't want to take!
As the end of Anna's treatment approached she was doing remarkable well! We planned her final scans to end her 54 weeks of treatment. At week 53, she started complaining of back pain. We soon realized the cancer relapsed. The cancer had wrapped around her spinal cord. An emergency spinal fusion surgery was planned in the hopes of saving her ability to walk. With rehab and a lot of hard work she did walk, first with a walker and then on her own. She started on another a chemotherapy treatment plan.
Unfortunately, 4 months after her relapse, Anna died in her mother’s arms on May 22, 2012. In Anna's spirit of thinking of others, and because we want to save other families from the pain we have experienced, we have started with the help from family and friends, the Anna Weitz Foundation in her memory.
The Anna Weitz Foundation will fund pediatric cancer research. Only 4% of the National Cancer Institute’s funding is directed to pediatric cancers. If cured, long-term effects of treatment have a dramatic effect on quality of life for many survivors.
Average age an adult is diagnosed with cancer: 67
Average number of years of life lost to cancer: 15
Average age a child is diagnosed with cancer: 6
Average number of years of life lost to cancer: 71