Pérez Scremini Foundation, a member of the St. Jude Global Alliance, now helps 70% of kids diagnosed with cancer in Uruguay

Childhood cancer survivor Agustina is one of those kids and now is giving back.

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lymphoblastic leukemia survivor Agustina, treated at the Pérez Scremini Foundation

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Agustina cherished the feeling of freedom she had always felt as a kid. 

In fact, it is one of the most vivid memories she has of her first years of life in Montevideo, her hometown. 

“I was a girl who loved to visit outdoor places with my family, like going to parks, to squares and all that kind of thing,” the 17-year-old recalled.

She also enjoyed going to camps. And it was at the end of one of them, at age 8, when her childhood freedoms changed. She noticed that her skin was beginning to turn yellow and that her legs hurt. “It was difficult for me to walk,” Agustina said. 

She went to the doctor to help her with the scary symptoms.

lymphoblastic leukemia survivor Agustina, treated at the Pérez Scremini Foundation

“At first they were not very clear about what I had, but when they diagnosed me with type B acute lymphoblastic leukemia, they transferred me to the Pérez Scremini Foundation,” she said. Agustina is grateful for the organization, part of the St. Jude Global Alliance, that works to advance care and cure cancer in children and adolescents in Uruguay. Pérez Scremini Foundation has the only unit in the country that is specialized in pediatric hematology-oncology, the medical specialty that studies blood cancers in minors. 

There, she immediately became a “valiente,” a Spanish term that means brave and is used by the foundation to refer to patients who come from all over the country.

After the doctors studied the diagnosis, her treatment began. “I was allergic to a type of chemotherapy. My body rejected it, so they had to stop it and that made (my case) a bit complicated,” said Agustina. 

The doctors then designed a personalized treatment, as happens with each patient of the foundation, regardless of their diagnosis. “We have specialists and doctors trained and focused on different types of cancers, not only on leukemias, and we diagnose 70% of the cases throughout the country,” said Sofía San Cristóbal, Director of Communications and Marketing at the Pérez Scremini Foundation. 

During the first months, the hospitalizations were constant, according to Agustina, as well as the administration of drugs and fluids intravenously.  

She went through two long years of intense monitoring and hospitalizations. And she temporarily lost that feeling of freedom that she enjoyed so much while being outdoors. However, at an emotional level, she always felt supported by her parents, aunts and grandparents, who took turns to be by her side at every step. And in the hospital, she did not lack company either. “The staff of the foundation always looked for a way to help me with everything, it has been a very nice experience. The first acts of support I received were from the volunteers who came to play with me, to talk, and to distract me, so that the situation was more bearable.”

In addition to treatment, the Pérez Scremini Foundation provides a wide range of services, including accommodation, transportation, social support and psychological care, all offered free of charge to their “Valientes.” This allows parents to “focus on the patient and, exclusively, put all their energies into being able to accompany that child who is going through a very complex situation,” added San Cristóbal.  

lymphoblastic leukemia survivor Agustina, treated at the Pérez Scremini Foundation

They also work throughout the country, making comprehensive visits to patients and their families and involving local communities in the cure for childhood cancer through different awareness and fundraising activities.

This comprehensive assistance is possible thanks to the commitment of volunteers and donors who have joined the cause, as well as international alliances such as the St. Jude Global Alliance. “For more than five years we have been working hand in hand with St. Jude in everything related to access to information, research and highly specialized professionals. Without a doubt, it has made a difference in the service that we can offer in our country,” said San Cristóbal. 

The Uruguayan foundation is part of the St. Jude Global Alliance, an initiative to improve access to care to children with cancer and life-threatening blood diseases in every corner of the world, and to develop plans to enhance its quality and provide better options for cures. The staff at St. Jude Global and ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude, provide "training to continue with the development, (and) to continue raising more and more funds that make possible the implementation of programs that allow us to improve the service for all our patients,” said San Cristóbal.

For Agustina, the foundation became a second home. “They have left something positive in me, in my process, in my personality. One generates a very strong bond (here),” she said.  

the Pérez Scremini Foundation

Currently, she only needs annual checkups and is in good health. And although her sense of freedom has been restored, she has not completely weaned herself from the foundation. "You don't lose the desire to come back or continue to interact (with the staff). That is why, for the next year, I'm already thinking of becoming a volunteer, because I want to continue with those beautiful things that they gave me throughout this process,” she said.

And, what’s more, Agustina plans to study medicine next year, with a clear objective: “to continue giving a little bit of myself here (at the foundation), because everyone gave me a lot of positive things during my process. I will never see life as it was before. It's something that changes you completely.” 

For more information about the Pérez Scremini Foundation, visit https://perezscremini.org.

At St. Jude, we believe every child deserves a chance to live their best life and celebrate every moment. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped raise the survival rate for children with cancer in the United States, where more than 4 out of 5 children survive. In many countries, however, fewer than 1 out of 5 children who develop cancer survive, largely due to lack of access to quality care. That’s why St. Jude is working with healthcare institutions and foundations across the globe to increase survival rates. St. Jude won’t stop until no child dies of cancer, no matter where they live.  

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