Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Glimpse at Childhood Cancer

Starting tomorrow, the color pink will begin popping up everywhere in honor of breast cancer awareness month.   Breast cancer is a disease that is disfiguring and all too common, but I would be remiss if I didn't, on this last day of September, take a moment and tell you about a month that gets a whole lot less attention.   

September is childhood cancer awareness month.   

And my guess is that you haven't heard much about it.   I am fully aware that no one likes to think about children getting cancer and that it's far easier to turn our heads when we see pictures of those bald heads than to recognize that funding for childhood cancer research is paltry….a mere 5% of federal funding.   Most of the big cancer foundations only earmark a very small percentage for children and as a result, these young children get cancer treatments geared for adults.  The treatments are toxic enough that over 2/3 of childhood cancer survivors are left with long-term health issues. 

  While many adult cancers are caused by a lifetime of accumulated toxins, these kids' suffering is caused by nothing more than bad luck.    

Their families, their  interests, and their very lives are overnight  sucked into a vortex of blood tests, surgeries, hospital stays, and fighting for their lives every single hour of every single day.    
They are stir-crazy, sick, exhausted, and scared. 

And don't forget the families.  

Their lives get put on hold too, while they help their child engage in the battle for their lives.  Routines get turned upside down, other children's needs get pushed aside, and they too are exhausted and fearful of what the future will hold.

So what can you do?   

First and foremost, you can make an immediate difference in the life of someone you know who has a child who is suffering.   The number of hours of service in meals cooked, in visits, and in help with daily tasks  that we were given over the course of Spencer's treatment is mind-boggling.  We simply couldn't have done it without our friends' and loved ones' support!     Don't just say you're there to help….find a way and do it! 

You can also donate to a reputable childhood cancer foundation.  

You can sign up to be a bone marrow donor
 It's an important, life-saving treatment for many types of cancer, including the type of leukemia that Spencer had (AML).   Unfortunately many people do not have a bone marrow match within their family. It sounds intense, but it's not actually not as bad as you'd think.   It's NOT a surgical procedure and most people are only out for a day or two after the extraction is made.    

This last option is clearly not for everyone, but you could also become a doctor, nurse, or researcher that makes a difference in the lives of these young cancer patients or helps find a cure.    
I cannot thank those medical professionals and researchers enough for the difference they made in our son's life.   Fifty years ago, he would have had zero chance for survival.    Today even, far too many people die from it, in fact we've had two friends relapse with AML just within the last month.   It's too many!

September is almost over, but it's not too late!  

Together, we can make a difference in the fight against childhood cancer! 



Katie said...

Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

Jennifer McArthur said...

So very humbling to look through those pictures and be reminded of the tremendous struggle Spencer and your family overcame. And a good reminder of all those still fighting the fight.

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