Fall is here. The days seem suddenly and shockingly shorter. The air has shifted and a cool hint is already starting to take flight in the Minnesota breeze. Autumn has overtaken the beaches full of giggling swimming children, the BBQ meals eaten late on long summer days, and the shrieking chorus of frogs and crickets which have settled into a hushed evening hum.
As school starts tomorrow and my 2 healthy, happily excited kids pile on the school bus, I will smile and think of how proud I am to be their mom. I’ll say a prayer for a smooth transition back to school. For great friends and helpful teachers. But even in the excitement of the morning I will likely shed tears as I remember my oldest daughter, who isn’t getting on a bus because childhood cancer became a part of our reality. She would have been going into 8th grade this year. Did you know that on average every Elementary school in the United States will have 1 child who is currently fighting or has had cancer already? That works out to about 1 in 300 children. Stay with these stats for a second- they represent real children. About 20% of the kids diagnosed with cancer, like our daughter, will die. Of the 80% or so kids who survive their cancer, 2/3 of them will have to deal with significant long term effects of their treatments... including things like infertility, heart disease, kidney problems, joint damage or even secondary cancers & relapses. Childhood cancers, and their treatments, are ruthless.
If you haven’t already heard- September is childhood cancer awareness month.
Of course this is close to my heart... it’s forever a part of who we are. Like it or not, even if it’s hard to think about and makes us sad, angry, or guilty- it’s a real part of the world we live in. No one should get cancer. Ever. It’s beyond horrible and awful... a desperately hard and painful experience. It shouldn’t happen at all and it really, really shouldn’t happen to our kids.
You’d think there would be a huge outpouring of support for these kids and intolerance of the statistics representing these amazing little lives. In our personal experience there has been overwhelming support for our family from friends and family (which I will be FOREVER and always grateful for), but in the general public and in the government I don’t see the support for childhood cancer I would expect. People are not demanding better resources, research or support for these kids. Shockingly only 4% of allotted cancer research dollars from the National Cancer Institute goes to find cures for all childhood cancers combined. That’s it. The littlest people with the biggest part of our hearts get the smallest piece of the pie. I know that everyone is someone’s kid at any age, but these littles truly break me.
I know. I know. Awareness campaigns make me a little crazy, too. Everyone everywhere seems to be shouting awareness from the top of the world about whatever has hurt them in a personal way. I’m admittedly no different. I don’t want to irritate people, or make people sad or get anybody to feel sorry for us. But... Oh! My! God! I can’t stand knowing how many Mom’s and Dad’s, Sisters, Brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles cousins and friends are watching their kids suffer so much and sometimes having to watch them die so horribly. There are so many of them and they desperately need prayer, support, encouragement and hope.
If you have a passion for a cause already- don’t feel bad about not putting your resources, time or talents into mine. I’m not asking for money. You don’t have to dump anything on your head. :) But if this topic touches you, there are many ways to get involved and do something that will make a difference. Awareness is great- action is even better.
Find a local children’s cancer organization to get involved in. It could involve volunteering for helping at an event- and can be so much fun! Try contacting the child life specialist at a local children’s hospital to see if they need volunteers or provide a pizza party for the kids on the oncology unit. Collect snacks to donate to the oncology unit for families who have long hospital stays with their kids. Maybe you do have enough money to donate to childhood cancer research or into helping families fighting today. There are many established and wonderful organizations (mostly started by families who have been personally effected by the monster called cancer) that could use your help in a variety of ways. Here’s a great and fun idea... how about eating ice cream for breakfast with us on Feb 18th to encourage kids and their families world wide affected by cancer? If you know someone personally, just sending an e-mail, card or small gift would mean so much. It doesn’t have to cost anything to make a huge impact. Use your imagination. Kids are great at that- ask a child in your own life to help you brainstorm some ideas for helping other kids.
Thanks for listening... for saying a prayer... for being aware... and for making a difference. And a huge thank you to everyone who has given our own family support love and encouragement over the last few years. We wouldn’t have been able to survive the emotional, spiritual and financial floods without you. Your prayers kept our heads above water. Our prayers are asking God to do the same for the next family given the devastating news, “Your child has cancer.”.