In just the first day of September people are showing their support online, going gold and sharing about Childhood Cancer!
The threshold of any movement is awareness of the issue. Why is awareness so important?
Those of us in the trenches of the battle against childhood cancer know that there are many harsh realities of this experience that most people just don’t realize! We know our children are getting short-changed on their lives! We’re frustrated, angry, and more than anything, terrified! Everyday KIDS are DYING. Dying before they even have a chance to grow up.
The reality of childhood cancer is often so tragic and difficult to process that many people just look away! No one wants to imagine their own child sick, suffering, and dying with no explanation HOW or WHY. But we who walk this path NEED you to imagine that this could happen to your child and your family. We need you to be aware of the reality that KIDS get cancer and every day kids are dying. We need you to be aware, and ENRAGED, that our precious children get just 4% of federal cancer research funds. We need you to know that 1 in 5 children who are diagnosed with cancer die from their disease. And the lucky survivors, 2/3rds of them suffer lifelong effects of their cancer and treatment. We need you to be aware that little to NO progress has been made in the understanding of what causes pediatric cancer. We need you to worry how your family might face the very real physical, emotional, social, psychological and financial burdens of childhood cancer.
I believe that if more people were aware that THIS COULD BE YOUR CHILD, they would get involved. Please, this month of September, don’t look away! I’m going to share some things that will make you sad. Some stories that will be difficult to read, and frightening to imagine. But this reality doesn’t disappear when you ignore it.
This reality came to my attention almost 7 years ago when my son, then just 5 years old, was diagnosed with a rare cancer. Cole, now almost 13, has been battling for his life longer than he hasn’t. He has had to overcome tremendous challenges and endure so much JUST TO GET TO BE A KID. And we’re the lucky ones. Over the years, I have watched too many families face the worst possible outcome, the death of their child from cancer, or worse from the treatments trying to save them.
What can awareness do?
Ask a breast cancer survivor.
Before the breast cancer movement began in the 1970s, no forms of cancer were spoken of openly. Little was understood about the disease. The only treatments for cancers of the breast involved disfiguring surgical mastectomy and toxic chemotherapy. As the most common form of cancer among women, breast cancer touched almost every family.
The Susan G Komen foundation was started in 1982 in honor of a 36 year woman who died of breast cancer after a 3 year battle. Her sister founded the organization to fulfill her pledge to stop breast cancer from taking more lives. After watching her sister’s experience, she believed patients would have better outcomes if they were more informed about the disease and its treatment. The Susan G. Komen foundation launched what became a global breast cancer movement. In 1992, Estee Lauder sponsored a breast cancer awareness campaign using a Pink Ribbon, and the breast cancer movement went PINK. Now it is commonly known that a PINK ribbon represents breast cancer. But that ribbon means more than awareness. With awareness and attention came funding for research, education, and new technologies. In the 1980s and 90s mammograms became a standard for breast cancer screening and resulted in earlier detection. In the early 90s the PINK movement succeeded in quadrupling federal funding to breast cancer research. More funding led to better treatments, more understanding of cancers of the breast and better outcomes. The movement changed the patient experience through community, support and empowerment. In 1975, 5 year survival was 75%, but by 1999 it had jumped to 90%. Today, 98% of women diagnosed with breast cancer will survive. Progress has changed screening, diagnosis, and treatment options. It has increased survival, decreased incidence and led to medical technological breakthroughs.
Our kids desperately need similar achievements in the fight against childhood cancer!
If we can GO GOLD for kids like we GO PINK for Breast Cancer, our kids might get the chance they deserve. It begins with Awareness. Stay tuned for the next post, on what comes after you are aware… ACTION!