September marks the beginning of Childhood Cancer Awareness month.(Although it’s every month for me!) This cause is something very near and dear to my heart. My late husband was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma before he could even get to really experience his teenage years.
There aren’t currently any specific treatment regimens that are catered to children specifically. Despite nearly 46 children each school day being diagnosed with cancer, childhood cancer still only accounts for less than 1% of new cases of cancer diagnosed yearly in the US. So, it’s very prevalent, but I guess not prevalent enough to get the funding it needs. There also hasn’t been much research conducted in the area of childhood cancer.Most of these children either go into remission and if their “lucky”, they make it to the 5 year mark (like my husband did). However, they usually relapse with a second form of cancer which was caused by the all of the toxic treatments from the first cancer. Then, there are other children who die almost immediately or are diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a few months or weeks to live.
Lots of times when doing research on childhood cancer, you’ll notice that there is so much talk about this “five year survival rate”. However, it’s just that- a 5 year survival rate – children like my husband went into remission for 5 years. I went to the doctors with him for his final appointment. He was a healthy, happy, man with so much ahead of him. Not even two months after that, everything went down hill. He relapsed with Acute NK cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia. (They originally thought it was T-Cell). The only form of treatment was a bone marrow transplant where basically your whole immune system is destroyed making you susceptible to death by contracting even a common cold. Many people do not even survive the BMT because it’s very taxing on your body and your immune system is being suppressed so that as much cancer as possible can be destroyed.
David survived the bone marrow transplant and we were able to get married. Things were looking up and he was happy, gaining weight and growing his hair back. THEN, 6 months later, we were back at the hospital on the TCT ward ( a specialized ward for young cancer patients) with what we thought was a regular chest infection. Little did we know that he was in septic shock and they needed to yank his Hickman Line out immediately. Yes, they had to yank it out with no pain meds or anything. After that ordeal, he was laying in bed watching Egg Heads with his mum and I. We were laughing and just waiting for him to get his medications. He was excited to finally take a real shower since his Hickman line was finally out. We had no idea that in a few minutes our whole life would change drastically. Suddenly, a whole team of doctors and nurses came in to tell us that unfortunately his cancer had reemerged and there wasn’t anything that could be done. The first words that I remember David saying were “but I’ve only been married for 6 months, I’m not ready”. His oncologist was called at home to inform him of the findings in David’s blood and he truly didn’t want to believe it himself, he actually went to the lab to look for himself before breaking the news to us.
Now you tell me whether that’s fair or not. You tell me whether you would ever want anyone you love to have to experience that. Most likely not. Now, I can go on and on about case after case of children who had their whole life ripped from them. About parent’s who have lost their children way too early. No one wants to believe that it can happen to them, but it can and it will happen again to someone else. That someone could be you or someone you love and care about.
This is why I’m spending this month trying to raise awareness and donating to different charities. I never want anyone to go through what I have. Children are supposed to be our future leaders and we’re supposed to be looking after them. Funding for research is SO important. Imagine if every body just donated $5, how much we could accomplish. it’s also important to know who you’re donating to and being aware of where their donations are going. This is why I’ve written a little list of some of my favorite charities below:
**Note** Teen Cancer America is solely to help institute cancer wards specific for young adults and children. This is also very important in the morale of the patient. I can attest to how much it helped my husband while he was battling cancer. Before he was placed on that ward, he was on a ward with older adults who were usually dying or very sick. On the Teen ward, he had access to all sorts of games, his own room, his own shower/bath, a fully stocked fridge and cabinets with essential foods, televisions and music. There was also an activity coordinator who helped organize events and crafts etc. Most importantly, he was surrounded by people his age who could relate to him and what he was going through. This is also a great cause.
Here is a list of some of my sources: