September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. What does that mean?
It means that we are all to give attention to the little ones who are enduring this horrible disease, and it also means that we should all be made aware of its realities. We should all, for a moment, turn our attention to the effects of cancer on these precious children, their families, their friends, the amazing medical staff that care for them everyday, and the researchers who tirelessly search for answers. We need to be made aware of the fact that only 4% of federal government cancer research funding goes to pediatrics.
I am so glad that we spotlight Childhood Cancer in September, but for some of us, it is our everyday. Or, what us oncology parents are told on that terrifying day of diagnosis, our "new normal". "Normal" being pokes, chemo, radiation, surgeries, transfusions, fevers, anxiety, and tears. "Normal" also being giggles, wagon rides down hospital corridors, dancing with IV poles, healthcare professionals who become friends, the remarkable strength of family, and the sparkle in a child's eye that can't be taken away by cancer or its rigorous treatments.
Cancer came back into my baby’s body for the third time in January of 2018. It took over her body in a way that, even having been an oncology mom for a few years at that point, I had no idea could happen. Cancer took my bright, beautiful, dancing, singing, magnetic, and oh-so-wonderful little girl from a typically developing three-year-old in January, to being unable to walk in April, unable to use the right side of her body in May, unable to speak or swallow in June, and finally to her death in July.
What made a difference for Claire during the three years she fought cancer, but especially during those awful last months?
The cutting-edge treatments she received for 3 years? Absolutely.
The brilliance and wisdom of her amazing oncologist and her staff? Definitely.
Research dollars that allowed her to take drugs that were specifically geared for her body? Certainly.
But also the friends and family that visited her each day to share a hug, read a book, or watch YouTube videos with Claire. Claire LOVED every person she ever laid eyes upon, and others reciprocating that kindness made all the difference in her last days.
So, if you can raise awareness of Pediatric Cancer this month by donating funds to help kids like Claire not have to endure what she did, that’s wonderful and I am very, very grateful. It means more than you can imagine. But if you can’t, you can still raise awareness by being a friend to someone who needs one. Don’t say “Let’s get together soon!” to someone going through a tough time, just show up with a cup of coffee. Give a healthcare provider a hug. Ask a friend to go for a walk. Volunteer some time to read a book to a child. There are so many big ways to honor Pediatric Cancer Awareness, but there are small ways as well—and they all make a difference. Please take some time today to remember all the kids going through this disease and know that Claire is somewhere dancing with joy when you choose to make a difference this month, big or small.