Our children are starting a new school year this week. The backpacks are purchased. The lunchboxes are packed. The notebooks are clean and fresh. The pencils are sharp. It is easy to see why there is excitement in the air.
It is important to know, however, that on the first day of school, 46 mothers will hear the news that their child has cancer. In fact, this year, over 12,000 families in the United States will face this devastating disease for the first time. In our own city, 500 children every month receive treatment for pediatric cancer and blood disorders and the ASK Hematology/Oncology center at Children’s Hospital of Richmond.
Are these shocking statistics? They were to me. Four years ago, I knew very little about Pediatric Cancer. It was a rare disease that only kids in Lifetime movies dealt with. Sure, I had seen the St. Jude’s commercials at Christmas time. Every once in a while, I saw a poster for a local fundraiser asking to help a family and their sick child. Cancer was something that happened to other people. Then it happened to me.
On January 20, 2009, my daughter Charlotte was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor. In one year, our family received a crash course in the world of cancer. Charlotte endured four brain surgeries, multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, and seemingly endless hospitalizations. Despite the wonderful care we received from excellent health care providers, Charlotte lost her battle. I lost my only child.
This year, over 1000 children will miss their first day of school because they lost the cancer fight. Thousands more will miss out on regular school activities because of doctor’s appointments, extended hospitalizations, and therapy appointments. They will miss playdates and slumber parties because the chemo and radiation has compromised their tiny immune systems, putting them at risk for even the tiniest germ or virus.
We have plenty of time to talk about breast cancer awareness in October. In September, let’s make the conversation about GOLD.
Donate blood or platelets, an ongoing need for anyone receiving chemo and radiation.
Bake (or buy) cookies for a Cookies for Kids Cancer bake sale near you.
Wear a gold ribbon or paste one on your Facebook profile. Show support for families facing life and death decisions for their children every day.
This September, I will remember those who will miss the start of another school year. I remember Lois, Abbie, Drew, Liam, David, Casey, Allie, and of course, Charlotte. I think about many of the Kourageous Kids who continue to fight. I’m going to make September all about GOLD.