It is September, which means many things to many people.
School starts in September. The fall begins only a few weeks into September. For some, there are birthdays, anniversaries, and events to celebrate.
For the few that have been effected by pediatric cancer, this is the month to “Go Gold!”
September is the month of push for more awareness and education for all pediatric cancers, which in turn, means more funding.
The facts on pediatric cancer research and the funding that goes into it are quite staggering. Only 4% of our federal funding goes to pediatric cancer research.
Though many researchers have agreed that finding the cure for all cancers seems to be linked with first curing pediatric cancers, the money still flows into the adult realm. I have some theories on why this is.
First, no one wants to think about sick children. This is a sad place that many of us do not want to go. Sure, we have all seen that St. Jude commercial with the bald kid hooked up to IV’s and walking down a cold hospital hallway in a gown. This is the image that has been put in our heads when we hear the words “childhood” and “cancer”. But the reality is, this isn’t the whole picture. If they really aired what a child goes through from start of diagnosis to end (which may be a cure, remission, or death), then I have a sneaking suspicion that those commercials would be pulled by the networks. It make us uncomfortable, sad, and heavy with helplessness.
Secondly, boobs appeal more to the masses. Now this may be a crude statement, but sometimes crude and truth go hand in hand. “Fun” slogans like, “Save the ta-tas” and “Save the hooters” have more of an appeal to a larger crowd than a sick child laying in a bed. Breasts join together women, lure in men, and even help teenagers wear t-shirts that normally would be prohibited from school, but are OK since it’s for cancer awareness.
Now before I come off unsupportive to those fighting breast cancer, know that this is the furthest thing from the truth. I have personally been effected by this evil. Though I have not had the diagnosis myself, I have had very close loved ones have to go through diagnosis, treatment, and deal with the disfigurement that comes with survival. I have sat with a mother of five, soon after finding out that her breast cancer had metastasized, and listen as she poured out her heart and waded through the waters of when to tell her five young children that she would not see them graduate, marry, and have their own children. I hate all cancer.
I can’t help, however, to be disappointed that though “Think Pink” for breast cancer is the month of October, and everyone knows it because the t-shirts and hats go on sale at the end of August, very few know that “Going Gold” is even a thing. The one month of the year that the community can recognize the need for our kid’s futures is squashed out by breasts and pink. Mind you, for a pediatric cancer family, all months are Awareness Month. They never stop fighting.
Though breast cancer needs a cure as well, how about we work a little harder on our kids being able to GROW breasts first. There are so many young girls that will never even make it to the age of puberty because cancer will have taken over their body.
The steps we have made in pediatric cancer have mostly been funded from parents tirelessly advocating, selling lemonade, baking cookies, and organizing fundraisers so that the brilliant scientists trying to rid our world of cancer can do their job. Research is not cheap or easy.
I once met a woman, close to my age, who when she was five was diagnosed with Leukemia. Much has changed in regards to treatment of this kind of cancer, but back 25 years ago, there were few options. The drugs were experimental and enough to kill you before the cancer itself would. But she recalled from her memories stories of her parents literally having lemonade stands outside of her home just so treatment could be paid for.
This just doesn’t seem right.
But I highly doubt it will change in the near future. In a day where lemonade stands turn to gofund me pages, parents are still on their hands and knees begging others to help them get treatment for their children, often experimental.
What can we do, though?
This is the question that hangs over all of our heads when faced with such a big crisis like pediatric cancer. We are not all millionaires, researchers, or doctors. Many do not have the skills and resources that seem needed for such a task.
But you are very wrong in how you think.
What can you do?
So very much.
I find that simply acknowledging something is the first step. We have all heard the saying, “Knowledge is power.” And this is so true. When we share information, we pull away blinders and inform those that do not know that pediatric cancer is a real thing. We may not all know someone personally that has been affected by childhood cancer, but I assure you, we have all loved a child.
My husband may disagree, but I don’t necessarily think of myself as a demanding person. However, today I ask you, reader, for a favor. Be a voice for those that do not have one. Share a story, wear a gold ribbon, or even change your profile picture on Facebook for one hour just to acknowledge that we can do more for our future kids. (You are welcome to use the one above. Or Facebook has some great ribbons for going gold.)
I always think how naive I was before Molly. I didn’t understand that in a way, childhood cancer is a lottery that all of our kids have been put into. The outcome is random and severe. It could have been yours. I never thought it would be mine.
I leave you with the names of some fantastic organizations that are doing amazing things in the world of pediatric cancer, particularly DIPG, the kind of tumor Molly had. Look on their pages and see all these beautiful children fighting or have fought. 4% will never be enough for our future. But perhaps we can change that, one ribbon at a time.