'Every shoe has a story': Demonstration raises awareness for children with cancer

Nearly one in five Canadian children diagnosed with cancer will not survive

'We still have a long way to go' 1:51


An Edmonton group laid out 1,500 pairs of children's shoes on the Alberta legislature grounds Saturday — one pair for every Canadian child diagnosed with cancer each year.

"We just wanted to create some awareness," organizer Carmen Huth said. "Every shoe has a story." 

Huth lost her 17-year-old son, Karsten, to leukemia in 2015. She wore his shoes, a colourful pair of sneakers, to Saturday's event.

"As a person who's lost a child, grief becomes a part of your life," she said. "What can I do to have someone else not go through that grief? That's what's important to me now."

Huth helped organize the rally Saturday, which included speeches and a march led by the RCMP. Volunteers dressed as superheroes and princesses trailed the march, alongside current and former child cancer patients.

Survival rates increasing

Nearly one in five Canadian children diagnosed with cancer will not survive, according to the Childhood Cancer Canada Foundation.

Pediatric oncologist Dr. Paul Grundy remembers at the beginning of his career 30 years ago, more than half his patients could not be cured.

"I've seen a lot of families and a lot of children and a lot of change," Grundy said.

While survival rates have increased, Grundy said treatments such as chemotherapy are crude with numerous side effects.

"We do need more research funding targeted to childhood cancer," he said. "Because cancer in adults is so much more common, that's where the bulk of work goes. But that really leaves childhood cancer at a bit of a loss."

About five per cent of cancer research funding goes towards researching the disease in children.

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