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Athletes Who Beat Cancer May Help Cancer Kids Do the Same

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For the older kids battling different cancers, the fact that an admired person not only had cancer, but also beat it, can be very important. "A lot of times, the teen-agers really need to meet people who have made it, because the teens are so introspective. ... The little ones distinctly get the seriousness and the stress of their situation, but it's the teen-agers who can kind of vocalize that. They want to meet people who have survived and who have exceeded [expectations], and done so well," Savage tells WebMD.

"I see a lot of young adults, and every once in a while they'll mention Lance and say, yeah, look what Lance Armstrong did, or the ice skater's name who got testicular cancer, Scott Hamilton ... sometimes the young adults will mention that," Hobbie tells WebMD.

The visits also can be inspiring for the athletes, too, whether they're sick or not, according to Savage, because in every way, these kids are fighting a heroic battle everyday. "I think it may be in some ways humbling to the fact that they [the kids] want to see them [the athletes], and there's as much mutual benefit from that. ... [All athletes] provide a wonderful diversion and inspiration and contact for these kids, and I really believe that it's beneficial to the athletes that do it."

"I think that by and large, most children with cancer and their families are some of the most amazing people I've ever met. And I think that they take hope from wherever it comes, and whether it's on that given day the counts look good or the scans look good, or whether it's something like their child made it back to school, or whether it's that they get to meet a celebrity, I think that they really parlay [that into hope]," Hobbie says.

Childhood cancer is different from adult cancer. It is usually diagnosed at a more advanced stage, and although great gains are being made in some treatments, childhood cancer can often be more aggressive than adult cancer. Plus, the children are often taken from their homes to spend large parts of their time in treatment centers. Any visit by someone is appreciated. But a visit by a hero, who also may have struggled as they are, can be a treasured and unforgettable experience.

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