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From leukemia survivor to top junior golfer

patient-golfer-storyTwelve year-old golfer Grace Chen is on a winning streak. She has won 25 golf trophies and recently earned a first place finish at the Junior Golf Association of Northern California’s annual tournament. This impressive string of successes began at the tender age of six when Grace achieved her first major triumph: She successfully completed treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).

This early success was a team effort. When she was only two years old, Grace began treatment for leukemia under the care of pediatric oncologist Gary Dahl, MD, at the Bass Center for Cancer and Childhood Blood Diseases at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Grace's treatment and successful recovery is noteworthy for many reasons. In a recent Packard story, Dahl explains:

Grace represents a very important trend in leukemia treatments... In the early 1960s, before chemotherapy was used, only about 3 percent of patients like Grace were long-term survivors. But in the late ’60s and ’70s, we made major inroads in treatment. ALL now has a cure rate of around 90 percent.

The story also describes how once treatment ended, Chen's golfing career began:

"My wife and I wanted something to help her physically and mentally,” said Grace’s father, Weixing Chen. “We figured golf — with open, fresh air and beautiful settings — would be right for her, and she could do it at her own pace and get good exercise.”

Golf quickly became more than just exercise. At age 7 Grace won five medals in a national competition.

Grace will compete in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship at Pinehurst, N.C. this year.

Holly MacCormick is a writing intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. She is a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California-Santa Cruz.

Previously: Training the immune system to attack cancer throughout the body: A new clinical trial at StanfordChildhood leukemia patient on methotrexate shortage and Study shows deaths from acute leukemia higher in minority patients.

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