It’s strange how everything can change in an instant. How one’s world can suddenly disintegrate and turn upside down while everyone else carries on. Each year, the parents of approximately 15,300 kids experience this when they hear the words “your child has cancer.”
Across all ages, ethnic groups and socio-economics, this disease remains the number one cause of death by disease in children. Despite this, less than 4% of the federal government’s total funding for cancer research is dedicated to childhood cancers each year. Unfortunatley, many of us have been affected by cancer in some way. Whether it is you, a relative or friend, life changes in that instant.
There are times when I question my faith and it happens each time I am told of another child getting diagnosed with cancer. It just doesn’t seem fair that when they should be outside playing and riding bikes their innocence of that childhood is taken away. The days now consist of doctor appointments, tests, medicines, surgeries and more unpleasantries.
When a person under the age of 18 gets cancer, it is called childhood or pediatric cancer. In the United States, about 12,500 children every year are found to have cancer. Doctors do not know why some children get cancer. They do know that children can’t “catch” cancer from someone else – it is not contagious. So, if you know someone with cancer, you should not be afraid to be around them – you can play and talk to them just like anyone else.
Although most children with cancer will get better, cancer is a very serious disease and doctors have to work very hard to find the right ways to get rid of cancer in children. So, when a child gets cancer, the doctors will give special cancer medicines or have the person get a special surgery to remove the cancer cells. Most of the time, the cancer goes away and does not come back! Sometimes the cancer does not go away and the child gets sicker and even dies. This is what happened to Alex Scott, the little girl who started Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Girl Talk Marlton sets up a lemonade stand every year to donate to the foundation.
I have seen the spirit of children fighting the disease and it is courageous. The word courage comes from the Old French word for “heart.” So when someone says those battling cancer have courage, it means “strength of heart.” Their body might win or lose, but their hearts will never give up.
One such girl in my life has a special place in my heart. Her amazing smile and upbeat attitude is always radiant as she shows the world the true definition of a fighter! It’s nothing less than miraculous. She is strong for her family, she is strong for other cancer patients and most of all, she is strong for herself. She inspires others to fight back and never lose hope. She, to me, is an inspiration and a real hero.
I encourage all to do their part in raising awareness of childhood cancer so that the innocence of childhood can be experienced by every child.
- Cancer is diagnosed each year in about 175,000 children ages 14 and under worldwide.
- Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease past infancy for U.S. children.
- However, thanks to better therapies, more than 80% of U.S. childhood cancer patients now become long-term survivors.
- Survival rates can vary depending on the type of cancer.
- About 420,000 childhood cancer survivors live in the U.S., with many more around the world.
*Statistics by St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital