The Joy of a Sick Child

Donna HornikMy almost 12-year-old was sick last week. No one likes it when a child is ill or in pain, and yet there is a strange, undeniable pleasure in caring for a sick child, especially as that child grows older.

Caring for even a healthy child can be exhausting and boring and often disgusting. But it is also clear and satisfying in a way that little else in the world is. A baby is hungry and so you attach it to your breast, or you hold it close with a bottle and suddenly, the baby is no longer hungry. You have not only solved a problem, you have kept a living being alive, you have succeeded! Try doing that with your love life, your career goals, or the problem of poverty in America.

As your children get older and make their own lunches and announce that they’re going down to 7-11 to get a Slurpee, things become murkier. Their problems are not as easy to solve or help them solve. So when your taller-than-you-almost-12-year-old puts her head in your lap and whispers, “Please Mommy can you make me a smoothie, it’s the only thing I can swallow.” You gather the throat lozenges and heating pad. You order up those movies and you jump on that blender.

It is one of the cruelest things in this world that in over 15,000 American families a year a child gets sick and there’s very little the parents can do to care for that child. That child doesn’t have a cold or strep throat, that child has cancer. In this country, almost 2,000 children a year die of cancer, leaving their parents unable to experience the little joys, or frustrations, of a sick child. More children die of childhood cancer than of any other disease, or any combination of diseases together.

Despite these tragic numbers, only 4% of federal funding is devoted to finding cures for childhood cancers.

I know several families affected by childhood cancer. My niece is a leukemia survivor, friends of mine from grade school, high school, and grad school all have children who survived, or are working to survive, cancer. Two children in my neighborhood, including a friend of my son’s, have cancer. Chances are, if you think about it, the same is true of you, too. Childhood cancer is stealing children from all of us.

My friends Jeremy and Sheila lost their daughter Donna to cancer. That’s her in the picture above. Jeremy and Sheila can no longer bring her soup or run a bath for her, but they choose to continue to care for her by raising awareness of childhood cancer. They choose to continue their jobs as her parents by raising money to help prevent other parents from suffering this loss.

You can help Jeremy and Sheila by donating to their St. Baldrick’s Shave-a-Thon here. All money raised goes to help find a cure for childhood cancer.

If you want to help fund childhood cancer research, and  you like the idea of a really tall bald private eye wandering around Las Vegas, you might also consider funding my friend Roy. This is Roy’s first year as a shavee, and he really is a Vegas PI!

Most of the problems in this world are murky and there’s no clear solution. The same is true of cancer, but donating money is something you can do, it’s easy and clear, like feeding a baby.

To learn more about childhood cancer and the funding gap, please visit these St. Baldrick’s pages:


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