On May 3rd my family received news that my niece, Dottie, was in the ER. What we playfully joked and silently hoped was constipation, turned out to be a tumor on her kidney. A couple of days later, Dottie went in for surgery to have the tumor and her kidney removed. Prior to the surgery, the surgeon joined hands with my family and said a prayer for a successful surgery.
The day after surgery, Dottie was requesting to take rides around in her alligator buggy. Despite the pain and discomfort, she was eager to be active again. While walking the hospital floors alongside her, I kept thinking how surreal the situation was. This spunky redheaded 3-year-old went from running around at daycare and in the matter of a few hours, her life had drastically changed course.
Childhood cancer is hard to wrap one's head around.
Here are some facts about childhood cancer that I recently learned:
Everyday approximately 43 children are diagnosed with cancer.
In the past 6 years, 77 new drugs were developed to treat adult cancers. In the past 77 years, 3 new drugs were developed to treat childhood cancers.
Childhood cancer research is vastly and consistently underfunded.
I'm coming to understand that the topic of childhood cancer is still considered taboo. Having worked with other taboo topics, such as aging, dying, and grief, I've observed a lot. As humans, we seem to think we are invincible and that 'bad' things will never happen to us personally. Especially things like childhood cancer. That is reserved for the cardboard box where we can slip some loose change in at the deli counter. 50 cents to erase the bald child's photo that like it or not, is forever etched into our minds.
People generally do not respond to taboo topics until they radically show up at their doorsteps.
I will admit, I hadn't given childhood cancer much thought until now. Cancer, of course, is an old friend of mine. At age eighteen my partner was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. We embarked on that crazy cancer train together. It's a journey I wish none of us would have to take. Especially with a child.
My niece Dottie has undergone radiation and continues to receive chemo. The latest scans show that there are no signs of cancer!! She is finishing her chemo treatments and has begun her journey back to wellness! A couple of weeks ago she started preschool - bald and beautiful!!
Dottie is a real life superhero. She's the bravest girl I know! She's kind of a big deal. All kids are.
Her dad recently shared these words:
This is tough. The absolute badest of the bad. This is The face of of someone who has the courage to face whatever gets put in front of her. She doesn't back down. No matter what. This is Dottie.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, please take some time to educate yourself about this taboo topic. Talk about it with your friends and family. Spread the word. Here are some other ways you can help kids with cancer.