Friday, September 25, 2009

Childhood Cancer: A Nightmare Scenario

From the St. Petersburg Times...

Is today the day?
Is today the last day I will have with my child,
our dreams shattered and lives forever changed?

In a perverse reversal of anticipation from the day a child is born, these unimaginable questions are circling the minds of some unfortunate parents all over the world as they watch their children die from cancer.

It goes against nature, against all of our expectations, to watch a child die. And yet it continues to happen — statistics say anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500 children die from cancer each year in the United States. Maybe that doesn't seem like many, but believe me when I tell you one is too many.

These parents are from every race, creed, geographic region and socioeconomic class — their child has been picked in a very unpredictable and random manner because, according to the American Cancer Society, childhood cancer is still quite rare.

You may wonder who they are and how you can avoid becoming one of them. If only there were an answer. I write this knowing all too well the horror of this situation because I am one of them.
My husband and I experienced the unimaginable on May 9, 2006.

Our son Zach was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 8, and every day after that diagnosis, I lived with those horrible questions in my head. Our answer came 10 months after his diagnosis when he took his last breath.

Childhood cancer is a war going on all around you. It's not in some faraway place, but right in front of you. If you have no one close to you in the battle, you may be unaware of the impact. Cancer rips these kids from their normal existence in an instant and throws them into unfamiliar territory filled with suffering and pain. Their lives are turned into a nightmare of needles, pills, MRIs, chemotherapy and radiation . . . things no child should ever have to face. There are some victories in the battle, but unfortunately, the war is far from over.

Since July 2005 when Zach was diagnosed, I have lurked near the frontlines of this battle watching its devastating effects. He joined the 12,500 other young warriors that were diagnosed that year. There are few new types of treatment available to young patients. And we were woefully unprepared for what course of action to take. But he, just like all his fellow warriors, did not let that affect his courage. He faced his diagnosis with a strong determination and optimism.

Zach was too busy fighting to see that adults seemed to have many more treatment options to choose from — but we noticed. Very little money has been devoted to building up the weapons for many forms of childhood cancer. It is true that there have been wonderful and amazing advances for some types of childhood cancer, but it is not enough.

Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease of children under the age of 15. In the United States, the incidence of cancer among adolescents and young adults is increasing at a greater rate than any other age group except those over 65. And yet childhood cancer research is vastly and consistently underfunded every year

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Take the time to recognize these very brave children all around you by joining the fight. There are many ways to help through local and national organizations dedicated to helping these kids and their families. They need your time, money, prayers and toys. But most of all, they need your voice.

Write Congress to demand full funding of the Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Act. The current proposed funding is $10 million. Surely, after spending billions on used cars, our government can spare a little change to save our kids.

Sherry Tucker of Valrico, author of "Unfinished Love — Walking by Faith through Pediatric Cancer" and founder of the Giving Hope Through Faith Foundation, lost her son Zach to a cancerous brain tumor in 2006. Go to www. for more information.


Stephanie T. said...

Thanks for your very eloquent and well thought-out blog. As the mom of 8-year old Nina who died of rhabdomyosarcoma in 2007, I can certainly empathize with all that you write. Keep fighting for a cure!

Hyunji said...

May I use the picture above for my fundraising page? It's to honour and support those fighting childhood cancer.