For many parents, September represents a return to routine, a return to normalcy and perhaps even a joyous occasion as the children return to school. Long gone are the days of day camps, swimming pools, trips to the beach, or visiting grandparents, as the structure returns to our family's schedule. Once upon a time, I was one of these parents, oblivious to what September represents for the childhood cancer community -- Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
We have become all too familiar with the shocking statistics surrounding childhood cancer. For instance, did you know that childhood cancer is the number one disease killer of children under the age of 15 in the United States? Last year alone, over 10,000 children were diagnosed with cancer, which accounts for nearly an entire classroom of kids each day! Of those children, over 1,300 will die annually of the disease.
If these facts surprise you, or make you wonder why you didn't know about it -- you are not alone. While I haven't surveyed them myself, I think it's safe to say that the majority of the population does not know what September represents. This stands in opposition to many other awareness months, which are widely recognized for the causes they are attached to. I am not here to complain about that fact, honestly I think it's amazing when an Awareness Month has such recognition; I only hope that someday, sooner than later, we can attain the same status for childhood cancer.
In case you haven't realized it by now, I am the parent of a childhood cancer fighter. I would do anything to go back to the days when I was blissfully unaware of the fact that children could even get cancer, but in early 1997, my innocence to this fact was lost. My daughter Alexandra "Alex" Scott, my second child, was diagnosed with cancer that January, shortly before her very first birthday. To say that our life turned upside down at that moment would be a vast understatement of truth, but as parents do, we got through it for our daughter (and her older brother Patrick and later her two younger brothers Eddie and Joey). Our lives became entangled in surgeries, chemotherapy, treatments, second opinions and what seemed like endless traveling. Through it all though, our daughter was our fearless leader, teaching us important life lessons, especially to enjoy the time that we did have with her.
When Alex was just four years old, and had been fighting her cancer for nearly her entire life, she did something that surprised us all -- she voiced her mission to help other kids fight their cancer, too. She would hold a lemonade stand in the front yard and give it to doctors so they could help others -- the innocence of a child to think she could change the world would in fact change our entire lives again. Alex proved that when people came together, anything was possible, and she would raise over $1 million in her short 8 ½ years. She wouldn't get to live into old age like I had dreamed for her, but she would achieve so much more than so many of us will during our numbered days on this earth.
After Alex died, we thought that her lemonade stand would just go away, but instead, her supporters rallied around and continued what she had started. It was then that my husband Jay and I made the decision to make it our life's mission to see Alex's dream to fruition -- we would start a nonprofit in her name and work toward the day when childhood cancer cures would be realities. We have achieved so much since Alex lost her life in 2004, including even more supporters coming together.
It is my hope, spurred on by my daughter Alex's dream, that one day parents everywhere will have the immense pleasure of worrying about nothing in September but readying their children for going back to school. Until that time, I hope that the entire country and world will "Go Gold" during the month of September, standing up for children and their families who, like ours, have more worrying things on their mind -- the fight against childhood cancer.
You can keep the good going by donating your own photo to Alex's Lemonade. For every photo you share to Alex's through the app, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 to help fund childhood cancer research.
*Via the Donate A Photo app for iOS and Android. Johnson & Johnson has curated a list of trusted causes, and you can donate a photo to one cause, once a day. Each cause will appear in the app until it reaches its goal, or the donation period ends. If the goal isn't reached, the cause will still get a minimum donation.
Editor's Note: Johnson & Johnson is a sponsor of The Huffington Post's Global Motherhood section.