As a childhood cancer survivor childhood awareness is something that is near and dear to my heart! September is childhood cancer awareness month and it is so vital that anyone who has the ability to bring awareness does! Only 4% of U.S federal funding is solely dedicated to childhood cancer research according to (St. Baldrics Foundation). That is an unsettling fact when you realize each day on average a class room full of children are diagnosed. No race, gender or socio-economic group is spared from this life threatening illness that effects last a life time.

According to the Cure Search statics approximately 15,700 children a year are told they have cancer and more than 40,000 kids undergo cancer treatment each year. That is more kids than ever should be told they have cancer. When a child is diagnosed it doesn't only effect them it has lasting effects on their families and friends as well.

I want to share a little bit more of my story with you, not sugar coated but the harsh reality. Not to have you feel pity or sorrow but to get inspired to raise awareness and get a glimpse of the truth behind childhood cancer. When I was diagnosed I was just 10 years old and forced into the oncology world where kids face adult issues everyday. Before I was diagnosed I had long wavy hair, played little league sports, and climbed trees with my neighborhood best friends. That all changed one sunny day in June. I lost all my long wavy hair, could no longer play sports let alone walk without assistance and my friends became afraid of me. I had a long two and a half years of chemo therapy treatments where not only I was affected physically but mentally as well.

I transformed from a apparently seeming healthy child to a 36 pound 10 year old cancer patient. I spent months and weeks in the hospital at a time. My immune system was so suppressed from treatments I was unable to go out in public places or even school. I got so many spinal taps and bone marrows I couldn't even count. I had named my IV pole Bob, and my port which was a device surgically implanted to help deliver chemo Joe. My best friends became my family, fellow patients going through the same thing as me, and kids I met at a childhood cancer camp called Camp Can Do! My amazing doctors and nurses became extended family members and people I grew to love. If it wasn't for my amazing family, fabulous doctors and medical staff, and faith in God I don't know how I would have gotten through that time.

Childhood cancer is nothing like its portrayed in popular movies, tv shows or even books. It is a harsh and ugly world that is a reality for so many. By the grace of God and support of my family I am one of the lucky ones who was pronounced cured. November 3 2015, five years after my last chemo treatment I was officially cured. I can easily say without a doubt that was the happiest moment of my life.

Cancer will effect me forever. I carry the memory of my friends who passed away with me always, My scars are battle wounds that evoke pride within me, I will always have to continuously be monitored and checked. The impact it has had not only on my life but on my family's is immense. Childhood cancer doesn't automatically stop once you turn 18, it is a life long battle.

The years between my diagnoses and cure date were the most difficult, impactful and inspirational time in my life. I have been able to look at my diagnoses as a blessing in disguise, due to the amazing people I met, perspective I gained and events that have come of it. My cancer made me who I am today and I would never wish that on anyone but I would never change my experience because it shaped me to the person I am today.

At the end of childhood cancer awareness month the battle does not end. Though survival rates have improved over the years kids deserve more. Kids deserve more funding, research, and awareness! The more people who care, spread awareness and help raise funding means higher cure rates and better treatments. It is on you and everyone to help spread the message. Your support can be as simple and extremely impactful as posting something on social media to showing your support with #childhoodcancerawarenessmonth or working to raise much needed funding. Anything you do to show support means the world to the warriors fighting for their lives today.

Gabrielle Flank
Gabrielle Flank
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