September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
September 2, 2012 Leave a comment
Five years ago this week, my life changed forever. It started with a small lump between my daughter Miranda’s ribs. It compounded when she was admitted to the hospital on September 1. It spun out of control when she was diagnosed with cancer on September 6.
It is fitting Miranda would be admitted to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital on September 1, the first day of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It is coincidental she spent the entire month of September in the hospital, fighting Ewing’s Sarcoma, a very rare form of children’s cancer. At the time neither my wife nor I had any idea there was a National Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Today, I am convinced the awareness is not much better with the American public. Running a Google news search this morning, I found more links for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which occurs in October, than Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
It does not surprise me the awareness is low, as childhood cancer affects less than 1/3rd of 1% of the children in America. Compared to the 250,000 women who will get breast cancer this year, it is a very small number. Yet, each year 13,500 families will have their lives changed forever and 2,700 will bury their children, victims of either cancer or the antiquated treatments.
Up until two years ago, there had been no new treatment specifically targeting childhood cancers in over 3 decades. Even today, the new options are few and far between. Most children, like Miranda, are subjected to chemotherapy regiments formed in the 60s or 70s – only the specific mix, dosage and treatment schedules have changed. Many of the chemotherapy treatments would kill a grown adult. It is fortunate children’s bodies rebound better.
Cancer has a serious downside. Without cancer, I wouldn’t have seen the devastation when a parent loses their child. Without cancer, I would have never had to close the hospital door so Miranda didn’t see R. J. Brisland’s lifeless body wheeled down the hallway of the pod. Without cancer, I may have lived my life without witnessing the funeral of a child, and certainly never would have witnessed the number I have.
But cancer also has it upside. Without cancer, I would have never witnessed the wonder of my wife founding the 46 mommas, a group raising money through St. Baldrick’s, an organization that is on track to beat the United States government this year in grant money for childhood cancer research. Without cancer, I would have never been able to grant a child’s one heartfelt wish through Make-A-Wish. Without cancer, I would never have the pleasure of helping other families through the pain of cancer in their own children. And without cancer, I would not have had the chance to see the hope each cancer parent holds that one day we will find a cure.
Peace and Grace,