Childhood Cancer Awareness Month ends today, but childhood cancer does not. And, hopefully, neither will childhood cancer awareness.
Cancer therapy is like beating the dog with a stick to get rid of his fleas
– Anna Deavere Smith, Let Me Down Easy
Momentous strides over the last fifty years have ensured life for thousands of kids who otherwise would have died. But research into life-saving treatments for kids have seemingly been abandoned in an effort to find cures for adult cancers. After all, more adults than kids get cancer, so there is much more money for drugs that treat older men and women than in drugs that save children.
After discovering that chemotherapy would help many kids with leukemia, cancer advocates largely turned to adult cancers, looking for new and better treatment options. Giving 8 in 10 children with leukemia an extra five years to lived appears to be sufficient; regardless of the side effects from standard chemotherapy regimens or the premature deaths that chemotherapy induces. Rather than finding novel therapies that might spare kids’ long-term health while beating their cancer, the cancer community decided the “nuclear option” was good enough.
Fortunately, thanks to new childhood cancer advocacy groups some research into better treatments for pediatric cancers–which, it must be remembered–are different diseases from adult cancers. But still, the only option for most children remains poison after poison after poison. We must find a better way. Bombarding kids with deadly toxins in the hope that most of them will linger on for five additional years simply cannot be the best, or only, option.
A new day, where targeted therapies beat deadly malignancies, must dawn.
Treatments that kill the disease and not the patient must emerge.
The tens of thousands of years of life lost to childhood cancer must be reclaimed.
We must stop beating the dogs to kill the fleas.
Thanks for praying for Harrison as he fights his battle, and for his brother and sister who fight alongside him.