I can’t tell you where Jessica Whelan lives or anything else about her daughter who is suffering from cancer beyond a viral photo. If you are not moved by Ms. Whelan’s photo and her words, which could belong to anyone, you have a heart of ice.
What I have to say about that photo is political ― and it has to do with how Americans vote on Tuesday.
My exposure to pediatric cancer didn’t start out as political. It began when I was fifteen or sixteen, nearly half a century ago. A four year old child leaned on me when he had pediatric leukemia and suffered greatly, and he leaned on me a few years until he died. I carry the mark where he leaned on me. These words are for him.
The last words I whispered in Nathan Cobb’s ear were about love. I couldn’t do or say anything else for him. I couldn’t assuage his suffering or his pain. All I could do ...
Imagine if your child had cancer, and you knew the government was withholding data of a cluster of rare pediatric cancers. You would be furious, no?
It is happening in Florida right now. Click on this Fox News report out of Fort Myers, Florida. The transcript begins:
(WFTX) – Research that identifies child cancer clusters west of the Everglades and in Miami-Dade county is raising concerns among some parents in Southwest Florida and Southeast Florida.”We believe state (of Florida) has a duty, first, of all to inform people of this,” says Simon Strong whose son, Oliver, died from Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
I wrote about Florida’s silence over a year ago, and the state’s silence continues. It continued through a toxic election cycle where substantive public health issues failed to register on campaigns. The children don’t vote, and they suffer worst of all.
It is not enough to go on corporate runs to stand in solidarity with cancer victims or to wear pink ribbons.
American voters should keep this kernel of awareness as they vote at the ballot box on Tuesday, because Republican leadership really must be held to account.
In Florida Gov. Rick Scott — Trump’s national campaign finance co-chair — and Senator Marco Rubio, and government agencies, not only refuse to advocate tough regulations against toxics, they won’t even support science to protect public health because the science could lead to more and tougher regulation against toxics and that conflicts with their ideology: protect polluters over people. In fact, the candidate they support for president, Donald Trump, wants to loosen all those regulations.
Here is what Jessica Whelan wrote, on Facebook, about her daughter’s photo:
This is the hardest photograph I have ever made, it is in fact my own four year old daughter. A few days ago she was given what is most likely only a few weeks to live after a battle against cancer that has been waged for over twelve months. This photograph was made in a moment that we as parents could offer her no comfort, her pushing us away whilst she rode out this searing pain in solitude. This sadly, for us as a family, is not a sight that we see rarely. This is now a familiar sight that we see regularly through each day and night, its frequency now more often. This is the true face of cancer, my baby girls blood vessels protruding from beneath her skin, a solitary tear running down her cheek, her body stiffened and her face contorted in pain. I could try and use a thousand words to describe this image that we as parents are confronted with on a daily basis but these words would fall short of truly depicting the sight we see. With this photo I do not mean to offend or upset, I do mean however to educate and shock those that see it in it’s context. Perhaps by seeing this photo people not in our position will be made aware of the darkness that is childhood cancer, perhaps these same people may be able to do something about it so that in the future no child has to suffer this pain, so that no parent has to bear witness to their own flesh and blood deteriorating daily.
Here is what the state of Florida should have done years ago but hasn’t: share data on rare pediatric cancers with America’s pre-eminent statistical association and allow independent experts to verify the state’s claim there are no cancer clusters. Ronald Reagan said, of the Soviet Union nuclear arsenal, “Trust but verify.” This generation of Republican leadership on cancer, causes and environmental regulation: “Trust but don’t verify.” American voters take note: democracy should have a better outcome than this.