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Winners Gallery | World Understanding Award | First Place
First Place
Renee C. Byer The Sacramento Bee
"A Mother's Journey"

1 of 40

Racing barefooted after kicking off her flip-flops, Cyndie French pushes her son Derek Madsen, 10, up and down hallways in the UC Davis Medical Center, successfully distracting him during the dreaded wait before his bone marrow extraction. Doctors want to determine whether he is eligible for a blood stem cell transplant, his best hope for beating neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer.

No one wants to hear the words "Your child has cancer." When you look into the face of someone with cancer, you may have no idea what is going on beyond chemo and radiation. It's human nature to turn away. But it is real life, often raw, and it's going on in homes all over this country, where more than 1 million people are diagnosed every year. Billions of dollars are given toward cancer research but virtually nothing is given to help families through the emotional and financial challenges to allow them the time to spend with their dying child. Through the eyes of Cyndie French and Derek Madsen, we can see that this could have been the most precious gift in the most vital moment. This yearlong story chronicling single mom Cyndie French, 40, and her 11-year-old son Derek Madsen is not an ordinary cancer saga. The photographs often take us places where we don't comfortably go, showing the emotional impact on finances, job loss and the complex relationship between a mother and her pre-adolescent son. They take us beyond the doctor appointments that hold bad news to the unrelenting anger of a small boy faced with neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive childhood cancer, as his mother is torn between giving up her business, throwing carwashes and trying to make money and care for her dying son. The emotional impact on them is significant enough to tear at the fabric of what defines a family, parental guidance and support. Derek died at home in the arms of his mother in May 2006. This isn't a story about his death. It's the story of how he lived and how he was guided with the unconditional love, persistence and patience of his mother despite all odds.



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