Why must parents be forced to give their children back to God? Every day, seven children “earn their wings” after horrific battles with childhood cancer. About 36 children – a classroom-full – will be diagnosed with cancer today. The average age at diagnosis is six-years-old. One out of five of those children will not survive; and, of those who do survive, three out of five will suffer long term effects from treatment including secondary cancers, learning disabilities, and organ failure. Contrary to popular belief, unfortunately, cancer in children is not as rare as many think.
Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death from disease for
children over a year old in the United States. It kills more children than cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, AIDS, asthma
and juvenile diabetes combined. Childhood cancer does not discriminate about ethnic backgrounds
or socioeconomic statuses.
Pediatric cancer is not one disease, but a dozen different types with countless subtypes. The causes of most of these cancers are largely unknown and, unlike adult cancers, not strongly linked to lifestyle or environmental risk factors. Less than 5% of the federal government’s total funding for cancer research is dedicated to childhood cancer each year, and only about 4% of funds raised for the National Cancer Institute go directly to pediatric cancer research. The funding for pediatric cancer research has gone down steadily since 2003.
When my three-year-old grandson, Logan, was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in 2010, the doctors could not tell us what to expect. We have watched that little boy bravely go through massive doses of chemotherapy, eight rounds of full body radiation, a stem cell transplant, localized radiation, and more chemotherapy. He was recently diagnosed with his second relapse and has, once again, matter-of-factly stood up to required treatments and the unknown ahead. Logan is a warrior and my hero.
I write about Logan to illustrate what just one child has endured, and continues to endure, at the hands of this monster. There are too many others. Too many times in a month that I hear or read that phrase “earned his/her wings today.” Childhood cancer needs a cure but it won’t happen without adequate funding and support. In the past 20 years the FDA has approved only one drug developed specifically for a childhood cancer. Most treatment regimens for pediatric cancers are those originally developed for adults and they can be more than 25 years old. We cannot sit by and accept the limited amount of funding that is directed at pediatric cancer. We must lobby federal, state and local officials to sit up and take notice and then do something about it.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and I urge everyone to do what they can to become more aware and to spread that awareness. Those of us who witness the realities of pediatric cancer would like to see the gold ribbon of this awareness campaign become as well-known as the pink ribbon for breast cancer. Childhood Cancer Awareness Month receives very little attention, but we are working very hard to change that to help spread awareness and perhaps have a hand in increasing funding so that we can decrease the numbers of parents who must hold their children as they slip away from this earth. We also would like to see organizations/cities/municipalities, etc. with prominent buildings that are lit at night to bathe them in gold light for at least a day, if not the whole month of September.
Please wear your gold ribbon prominently during September and take the time to learn about childhood cancer. Then, Google “childhood cancer” and find a foundation that offers research grants and send them whatever amount you can afford. And, when someone asks you why you are wearing a gold ribbon, tell them it’s to help save the life of a child and they should do it too.