This post is part of the Donna Day blogging event to raise money for St. Baldrick’s.
I have been thinking a lot about cancer lately. I’ve been thinking about two children I know and love, who are now both battling Leukemia. I’ve been thinking about a friend I recently became reacquainted with who is recovering from breast cancer. I’ve been thinking about a woman I do not know well, but whose ability to live in peace with herself and nature inspired me to completely change my life twelve years ago. She too was diagnosed with leukemia. Thanks to aggressive chemotherapy she survived, but now, in her thirties she is facing hip replacements and all sorts of other injustices. I’ve been thinking about my dear friends’ son, a boy who shares a name with my own son, a boy who recovered from Stage 4 Liver Cancer, and is now a teenager with severe hearing loss as a side effect of chemotherapy.
I’ve been thinking about cancer in a weird, philosophical way, too. Ronald Reagan first used the word “AIDS” in 1985. I was 15 or 16 and it seemed like for years we were all obsessed with AIDS and the dangers of AIDS. Perhaps it was more my group of friends than others. Perhaps we were right to be obsessed because we did begin to lose our friends in the 1990s. AIDS was an external threat, something that keeping to yourself and tamping down your desires could control. But now it seems that in my life at least, cancer has taken over as the threat. Cancer is harder because it is a threat that is part of us, perhaps living inside us as we type and read this. I feel like that difference must say something about the different eras, something about the way our world has changed, or I have aged.
But I’m not writing about cancer because I think you really want to hear my psycho/social/literary babbling. I’m writing because when I think about cancer I think about Donna, the daughter of friends of mine who died of a brain tumor at the age of four. Because of Donna I’ve learned a horrible truth about healthcare in this day and age. The more popular your disease, the more likely you are to survive it. If you have a “good cancer” like the children I know with ALL Leukemia there’s been a lot of research and so there are a lot of treatments. If you’re unlucky enough not just to have cancer, but to have a less popular form of cancer, you’re forced to fight for funding for research for it. You’re forced to have bake sales and lemonade stands and ask others to “vote” for your cancer in various contests. Because you know, your child’s life is really the same as raising money to go to band camp.
Even though they lost their own child, this is what my friends Sheila and Jeremy, Donna’s parents, do. Here is some of what I’ve learned from them:
- More US children will die from cancer than any other disease, or many other diseases combined;
- Before the age of 20, 1 in 300 boys and 1 in 333 girls will be diagnosed with cancer;
- worldwide, a child is diagnosed with cancer every three minutes;
- the cure rate for the most common form of pediatric cancer, ALL leukemia, is as high as 90%, but most other childhood cancers do not have that success rate. Brain tumors have a 50/50 cure rate, and some, like DIPG, are known to be fatal with no known treatment or cure;
- 73% of kids who survive their cancer will have chronic health problems as a result of their treatment and 42% will suffer severe or life-threatening conditions like secondary cancers.
Information regarding why childhood cancer is so poorly funded can be found here. What you read will shock you.
On March 30, 2013 Jeremy and Sheila, and their Not for Profit, Donna’s Good Things, will be hosting their second annual head shaving event to raise money for childhood cancer research. Last year’s event raised $79,000.
Cancer is terrifying. Some of us have the luxury of sitting around philosophizing about it, others do not. To donate to Donna’s Good Things St. Baldrick’s Event, to help fund research so that more children, even those with unpopular cancers have a fighting chance, follow this link to their team page.