“When September Ends” — Green Day

September has ended.  And I feel guilty for not doing more to promote Childhood Cancer Awareness month.  Some years I’m more involved than others.  Mostly I just get tired of trying to raise awareness about a situation that if it hasn’t affected you or your family directly you’re likely to just shy away from it.  I get aggravated as we roll into October and every woman’s magazine on the shelf is decorated pink and features some celebrity who has either battled Breast Cancer or had a family member who battled Breast Cancer.  What articles did they feature in September?  Who knows?  But I know one thing – their covers weren’t gold and they weren’t featuring kids with cancer.

It’s not just magazines either it’s everywhere.  All October long you can buy everything from Chicken Noodle Soup to Chapstick to Mopeds decked out pink with pink ribbons and Breast Cancer awareness labels.  It’s not that I don’t understand the importance of Breast Cancer awareness – my mom has had Breast Cancer TWICE.  And because of that I’ve got a better than average chance of being diagnosed with Breast Cancer sometime in my life.  I GET IT!!  But I also want the all the media and consumer attention that gets directed towards Breast Cancer in October to be directed towards Childhood Cancer in September.

Wow I sound like a diva… I want all the media attention. 

But the reality of it is….. I’m not going to get it.  I haven’t in the past six years and I’m probably not going to get much more in the upcoming six.  It’s not that there aren’t national organizations or major companies that support Childhood Cancer it’s that there aren’t enough.  Off the top of my head I can name the ones that support Childhood Cancer:  Hyundai Motors, Chili’s, Glad, Asics, OXO, Volvo, Rita’s, Applebee’s, Old Navy, and Northwestern Mutual.  Hyundai is one of the major contributors with their Hope on Wheels project.  The other companies are involved through other childhood cancer organizations like Cookies for Cancer and Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

I shouldn’t be such a negative Nellie, because the list of supporters is growing.  But it’s growing slowly and I want an explosion.  I need to learn to be patient.  However in the six years I’ve been patient nearly 81,000 children in the United States were diagnosed with cancer and approximately 15,000 died from the disease.  But sadly Childhood Cancer is still considered and “orphan” disease – meaning a disease that has not been “adopted” by the pharmaceutical industry because it provides little financial incentive for the private sector to make and market new medications to treat or prevent it.  “Orphan Diseases” are ones that are affect less than 200,000 people – only 13,400 kids each year are diagnosed with cancer.  ONLY… listen to me!  For the 13,400 kids and their families it’s EVERYTHING.

From the day you hear “your child has cancer” everything changes going forward.  Your outlook on life, on death, on parenting, on family, on love, on friendship, on jobs, on faith, and on hope all change.  Anything you thought was important to you or in your life changes after a child is diagnosed with cancer.  And all any of us mom’s and dad’s out there who have experienced this is for other people to see what we see.  We want better treatments if not for our own children who are in remission for the 13,400 new kids next year.  We want more options for treatment, less invasive procedures, more specialists in our area ….  We want our kids to have a better life and a better chance for the future.  So every September we dust of our soap boxes and pound our drums and hopefully recruit a few more followers to help us promote our cause.

But back to reality. 

The reality is simple.  People don’t like to be reminded that kids get sick.  They don’t like to think about the hurt and pain kids go through while doing treatments.  It’s scary for parents to think that something like that might happen to their kid.  And because it’s scary and sad and heartbreaking people shy away from it.  Ok to be perfectly honest sometimes I shy away from it too.  But this year I saw something positive in our journey with cancer.  Teagan was asked to be a guest speaker at an elementary school for “Hero Day.”  Twice she stood up in front of 3 classes of second grade students and answered questions about having cancer, chemotherapy and being partially disabled on her left side.  Yes I stood up with her and helped her out with a few answers – things like medical terms and dates and timeframes – but she stood up and eloquently (for an 11-year-old) and very matter-of-factly explained what happened to her. 

This year a group of 2nd graders.  Maybe next year a whole school.  Maybe the year after that an auditorium full of people.  Maybe eventually Congress.  She is charismatic and has big things in store for her even though she can’t see that yet.  As usual through this journey she is my guide.

I’ve come up with a new plan for next year and hopefully I can get organized before next September.

GOLD is the new BLACK.   (hashtag) : D

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4 thoughts on ““When September Ends” — Green Day

  1. I sit here wondering should I reply? Should I put my opinion out there? Will she hear my empathy? In the end I decided I would. And I hope you can feel my hug through my words. I understand your pain and your frustration. The pink world is a big empire and I’ll admit that I’m part of it. The bottom line is, when Susan Komen lost her battle with breast cancer and her sister vowed to make a difference, she surrounded herself with very talented and ambitious people and certainly has created a HUGE empire for the breast cancer movement. It appeals to the core of the volunteers in this world – the women! What woman doesn’t want to wear pink, support their mom, sister, aunt, cousin, best friend. Women are the ones that create movements. I believe that with all my heart. I’m participating, I’m raising funds and I’m hoping that I make a difference. But more importantly, I want you, and everyone, to know that it’s not JUST breast cancer that I care about. My heart does not break more for my friends who have lost battles to breast cancer than it does for my grandpa that I lost to lung cancer or my friend who lost her little girl to leukemia. I understand your frustration and you’re SO right in many ways. People do get scared. People have a hard time facing things that cause kids pain. I personally have 4 friends that have had to face the diagnosis that their child has cancer. It’s terrible and you never understand it until you’re in it. My only hope is that for all the people raising money for cancer research, walking in walks, making donations, etc – that when breakthroughs are made that they are made across the board and that strides in research in one area of cancer can be applied to all areas of cancer research and treatment – breast, colon, lung, prostate, melanoma, leukemia, whatever. I understand why it is so frustrating for you. I’m sure my rambling thoughts are not really helpful, but I want you to know that for me, while I walk my 3 days and 60 miles for breast cancer awareness my friends and families who have fought all kinds of cancers are always on my mind. So, I want to encourage you to proudly wear your gold and do what you can to bring awareness for those amazing kids! And just know that next month my shirt may be pink, but my heart is a rainbow! :0) I love you and I wish I could hug you!

    • I do understand the importance of the Susan G Koman Foundation and the work and strides they have made. And I do wear pink and have several breast cancer awareness shirts – because it is important to me too. I think my issue comes when it’s on soup cans and cake mixes because I feel like a lot of these companies are simply profiting off of breast cancer by slapping a pink ribbon on their product and making a donation that is probably less than 1/4 of the profit they made off that item. But that 1/4 donation is better than no donation. So if I can turn the soup cans gold in September I will!!

      • You go girl! And way to go to Teagan too! What a strong and amazing girl to be able to stand up and share her story. I’d love to see more people showing their support for all the amazing kids who have battled cancer. I see the perspective you’re talking about but honestly I’d never even thought of it that way. I always look at it like “every dime counts”. So even if they’re only giving a dime for each one sold that’s one more than we had. So, let’s get some gold ribbons on stuff!!

  2. Great article as always!

    I bought my Niece a book for Christmas back in 2008. It was called “It’s Your World–If You Don’t Like It, Change It: Activism for Teenagers”. Mary has a good brain, and I like to watch when she uses it….

    It’s never to early to start making a mark on the world. And while kids sometimes aren’t taken seriously by adults in leadership roles, it looks like Teagan is well on the way to making the world a better place. Go Teagan!

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