Try to Wrap Your Mind Around Childhood Cancer, Even for a Minute
September means many things to many people. Mums replace summer flowers, football is in full swing, we get out our jeans and sweaters, we know autumn is on the way.
For me and many of my friends, September also means “going gold” for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. My son is an acute lymphoblastic leukemia survivor, and as such, I have many friends whose kids have had childhood cancer, are currently in treatment, or have been taken by the disease. For us, childhood cancer awareness is more than something that happens for 30 days at the end of every summer, it’s something that started on a day a medical professional delivered devastating news, and continues every day of our lives from that moment on.
In September, I think all the time about childhood cancer. My social media is flooded with awareness messages, and I spread the awareness as well. There’s plenty to share, from statistics and memes to information about side effects and late effects of chemotherapy and radiation. But what strikes me most this September is the endless queue of children who make their way through the Hematology/Oncology Clinic.
Yesterday, Ben had a follow up appointment at the clinic. It’s been three and a half years since he finished his leukemia treatment, and almost seven years since he was diagnosed. The clinic we used to visit several times a month and where all the families had familiar faces is now filled up with “new” patients and families, people we don’t know because day in and day out, new people are inducted into the childhood cancer world. The names and faces change, but the diagnoses, the treatments and the devastation never do. Awareness of childhood cancer is hard. It means acknowledging what these kids and their families experience. It means allowing yourself to imagine standing in those shoes, even if you can’t bear to take even a step in them. It means, ever so briefly, letting your mind try to wrap around the fact that children get cancer, and just how horrific it is.
But today, just for a moment, I plead with you to let yourself go there. Imagine it’s your daughter under the blanket in the recliner spending her whole day getting “therapy” that will make her vomit, lose her hair, and will hopefully battle the cancer trying to destroy her. Imagine it’s your son who just got a blood transfusion that will boost his energy, at least for a few days, until the chemotherapy destroys too much of his hemoglobin again. Imagine coming to terms daily with your child’s mortality, and praying they’re in the approximately 85 percent of children who survive.
Then do something about it.
Follow Alethea at Ben’s Writing, Running Mom.
The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: Write a letter to yourself in regards to a cancer diagnosis. What would you say or wish someone had told you? Find out how to email us a story submission here.