In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

April 17, 2014

Graham’s gift

By Elizabeth Harty

Graham760Leave it to Facebook to turn a simple way to pass time between appointments into a viral effort to raise funds for pediatric cancer research. As NBC's TODAY show reports, 10-year-old Graham Fowler, who was diagnosed last April with a rare form of skin cancer, began making bracelets as a way to pass time during treatments at Mayo Clinic. Now, his hobby has become something much bigger and has raised more than $8,500 for cancer research. His hope, he tells TODAY, is that "they find a cure and no one goes through this."

Graham's diagnosis with spitzoid melanoma came last April "after a small, red spot on his arm wouldn't stop bleeding when he picked at it." After several tests, his dermatologist made the diagnosis and said the cancer "was already advanced." Graham and his family were referred to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for a consultation.

Once at Mayo, Graham's mother, Cheryl Trocke-Fowler, tells us Graham began making bracelets, and after he finished the first one, his sisters posted a photo of his creation on Facebook. The response was both immediate and overwhelming. So Graham decided to make more, sell them each for a buck, and then donate whatever money came in back to where his cancer treatment first began -- Children's Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota -- to help advance the fight against pediatric cancer. "We had no idea how many he would actually sell," Trocke-Fowler says.

The sales have grown even more since Graham's sisters helped him create a Facebook page called "Graham's Gift," where according to TODAY, they also share "updates and exchange messages with people interested in … helping the cause." Graham says that each bracelet, which takes him about a minute to make, carries a special message of hope for the buyer. "I put a bead on every bracelet," he says. "It's yellow for child cancer research."

Graham has undergone 10 surgeries at Mayo Clinic as doctors continue to try to contain his cancer. And even though his doctors have told Graham that there's no cure at this time for his cancer and they can't give him a solid long-term prognosis because it's so rare, Trocke-Fowler says that his care team is doing everything it can to help get him and the rest of the family through it all. "Graham has had exceptional care at Mayo," she tells us. "They follow him very, very closely and have done a lot of teaching about sun-safety and making certain he's aware of the importance of skin checks and scans. He loves Dr. (Megha) Tollefson in Dermatology."

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Tags: Dermatology, Dr. Mehgha Tollefson, Facebook, Graham Trocke-Fowler, Melanoma, Patient Stories, TODAY Show

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