It’s about that time again.
For most, their thoughts reflect upon 2001. Mine do as well, but for a totally different reason.
Ten years ago in late August, we received news that forever changed our lives. One simple phone call.
“I think your son has cancer.”
It took a week to find out for sure. We spent three full weeks in the hospital trying to get Caramon’s condition stabilized so he could return home in between treatments.
Yes, he was still in the hospital for 9/11.
The next year felt like a roller coaster ride you keep hoping might end and yet it never does. Where are the smooth parts? Forget it. We learned a lot in that time. I learned I could make grilled cheese for three meals a day and not get sick of the smell. I saw miracles happening before my eyes – not just with Caramon but with several of his mates on the oncology floor. I saw an outpouring of love by people I never met as they sent us cards constantly.
We were lucky. It seems so wrong to say that when you talk about cancer, but it is true. His cancer, a Wilms’ Tumor, is treatable. Very treatable. His chemotherapy treatments? Not so bad as far as chemo goes.
Sadly, this is not the case for some kids. Pediatric cancer is nothing like the cancers that adults get. Some cancers, like Caramon, are really only seen in juveniles. That said, no kid should have to worry about if they are going to die. That’s crushing. No parent should have to wake up every morning wondering if they will outlive their child by decades.
Even worse than the statistics for how many children get diagnosed every year, which is staggering enough, is how little research gets funded for our children. Many of the long-term side effects of the very treatment you must give your child are as of yet unknown. Many children deal with health issues from their cancers for the rest of their lives, some even find themselves diagnosed with other cancers.
This month, hug your children. Kiss them on the forehead. Let them know how much you care. Because you never know what could happen. Cancer is a disease that holds no prejudice. Young, old, black, white, boy, girl – it simply does not matter.
If you know someone with a child going through this, or any severe illness, give them your love. I will admit now that I didn’t ask for much. An occasional meal? Sure that would be nice, especially on chemo days, however it can be more trouble than its worth. Chemo days are long and taxing, part of that is because you do not know how long the appoint might take. Thinking someone might show up at your house with a casserole? Too much stress.
What can you do? If they are in the hospital, bring a treat. Hospital food gets real old real fast. Once, someone brought me a salad. Just a basic salad from a fast joint, but it didn’t matter to me.
Also, try talking about anything BUT the cancer. It’s not that we want to avoid the subject, however we know it makes you uncomfortable. You don’t know what to do, you don’t know how to relate. That’s all right. Mostly though? We’re just tired of repeating ourselves. Every single time I’d see someone at the store or talk to them on the phone I had to give the latest update. It gets tiring. And we’re going to speak some foreign language anyway, as we prattle on about blood counts and medicines and radiation levels and… well, you get the picture!
Tell your friends. The statistics would startle you: One out of every four elementary schools has a child with cancer. Every high school has two students that have, are, or will deal with pediatric cancer. Chilling – 35% of pediatric cancer patients earn their angel wings. I’d like to remind you that Caramon’s cancer was very treatable, and his was a 98% cure rate.
This month is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. Who will you tell? Will you wear a gold ribbon in honour of the many children battling this illness?
It seems so easy.