It started with swollen lymph nodes and a strep throat diagnosis in late-2015, but what came next for Cottage Grove teenager Caden Maddigan was devastating.
When their son started losing weight and developed a dry cough, Craig and Kyra Maddigan brought him back to the doctor in search of answers. The conclusion: stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma.
Five rounds of chemotherapy and three weeks of radiation later, the cancer is now in remission. Though Caden got the right treatment in time, Craig Maddigan said other families are not always so fortunate. That is why he decided to do something to help.
For the second year in a row, he has led a team in Alex's Million Mile, a nationwide childhood cancer awareness and fundraising challenge. The longtime runner said it is a way to honor his son's cancer fight as well as help others in similar situations.
"We don't want the next family to go through what we did," Craig Maddigan said. "And the only way to try to make things better is to make money for research and get awareness out there."
A million miles
The goal of Alex's Million Mile is to raise $1 million and for participants to collectively walk, run or ride a million miles for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September.
The initiative is put on by Alex's Lemonade Stand, founded by the late Alexandra "Alex" Scott of Connecticut, who at age 4 started a lemonade stand to help find a cure for cancer. She died in 2004 of neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer, at the of age 8.
Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation has raised more than $150 million and funded over 800 research projects, according to the charity's website.
"September is an important month in the childhood cancer community," said Jay Scott, Alex's father and the foundation co-executive director, in a news release. "We hope that through the collective efforts of AMM participants we can bring awareness and funds to innovative and effective childhood cancer research."
The Maddigan team, Miles for Caden, had logged 340 miles out of its 750-mile goal as of Sept. 18.
For more information or to donate, visit www.alexslemonade.org.
Though major treatment advancements in recent decades have improved the five-year survival rate for childhood cancer to around 80 percent, cancer remains the leading cause of death to illness for children under 15, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. An estimated 170 children are diagnosed with cancer in Minnesota each year.
In Wisconsin, an average of 263 new invasive cancer cases and 31 cancer deaths occurred each year among children and adolescents between 2009 and 2013, according to the state's Pediatric Cancer Report.