Tomorrow is September 1. For most of us it will be just another Saturday. Just another beginning to just another month. Just another Labor Day weekend.
But for tens of thousands of children and their families it will mark the beginning of Childhood Cancer Awareness month and Leukemia Awareness month. For us, it will be our first time to think of September as anything other than the month of my birthday.
Until a few weeks ago, I was unaware of a month dedicated to raising awareness of childhood cancer.
No one will miss that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Pink will be everywhere as a reminder of the families affected by breast cancer. NFL teams will wear pink. Lachlan’s high school football team will be decked out in pink all month long.
But in September you won’t see the NFL, MLB, or even a high school football team wearing anything special to raise awareness of kid’s fighting cancer. There won’t be news reports or special events pointing out the fact that of the thirty-eight kids diagnosed with cancer today, almost half of them will die. No one will be reminded of the kids who fight, the parents and siblings who suffer, the researchers who labor, the doctors and nurses who serve.
No one told me there was a month set aside to emphasize the needs of kids like Harrison fighting leukemia. I’ve never worn orange or gold as a reminder of the thousands of kids who have died this year from cancer. I’ve not once spent September raising awareness of the plague that is childhood cancer.
It took a personal tragedy to bring childhood cancer to my attention. Only my son’s suffering could end my ignorance of what so many face every day.
And to think, the month before I will wear lots of pink hoping to raise awareness for women who fight cancer, as I have done for years, I can for the first time wear my orange bracelet for all the kids, not just for Harrison. The orange ribbon on the back of my car is no longer just a message of my son’s battle, but is a shout out to all the cancer kids in the Triangle and beyond. When people ask me about wearing orange I can say, “It’s for every kid who, like Harrison, is my hero for battling cancer against all odds.”
I can tell people that only one new drug has emerged for the treatment of childhood cancer in 30 years.
Doctors have found ways to keep the drugs from killing as many kids as they used to, but the funding dollars for cancer research go to “adult” cancers, not to the kids. For every dollar spent on researching adult cancers, mere pennies are spent helping kids. There are thousands more kids with cancer than patients with AIDS, but AIDS research funds far eclipse those for childhood cancer.
Kids and their families are fighting their battle hidden away in clinics and hospitals, struggling to survive, unknown to most of the world.
Why did no one tell me years ago of this struggle? Why is there no “the children are our future” moments? Why was it six months into being part of the childhood cancer community before I first even heard of Childhood Cancer Awareness month? Is anyone not aware of Breast Cancer Awareness? Does anyone not know what it means when Major League baseball players use pink bats on Mother’s Day?
Is there anything that can be done for kids fighting cancer? Is there anything we can do to help raise awareness?
I can post on a blog. I can wear orange. But haven’t families and friends been doing this for years? Is there not someone, somewhere who, in some way, can do for childhood cancer what has been done for breast cancer? Could we bring this scourge into the national spotlight?
Until that happens, please pray for these kids. And perhaps tell someone tomorrow about childhood cancer. Otherwise, they just might not know.