I am a freelance writer. That’s what I do and I love it. My way of making a living has taken me to so many different avenues in life and I’ve met so many interesting people.
Many people have been inspiring, be it an artist using his/her talents to make the world more beautiful, or a musician creating wonderful noise we end up humming time and again with a smile. A stage or screen actor takes us to another world if only for a short time. An athlete makes a play that we tell ourselves in our younger days we might have been able to do, knowing full well the fact that we never could is why we are writing about it and they are doing it.
But never have I been so inspired than by youngsters fighting cancer. I’ve written numerous stories over the years about several who faced that evil beast – a monster no child should ever meet.
I’m writing this now because we are nearing the end of September, which is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Why we need a special month to remind us to keep this little darlings in our thoughts and prayers (the real ones, not the ones politicians send after a shooting) I don’t understand, but I am grateful for the focus nonetheless.
Now, if we could only turn that focus into a year-round thing. Looking at statistics, it just seems to me the kids could use more help.
The Coalition Against Childhood Cancer reports that while more than 200 cancer drugs have been developed and approved for adults by the Federal Drug Administration as of last year, only 35 have been approved for children. And, out of those, 29 were originally approved for adult use, meaning only a half dozen have been created exclusively for kids, who, as any parent knows, cannot always take the same medicine as a grownup.
The American Childhood Cancer Organization notes that one out of every 285 youngsters will develop cancer by the age of 20. That’s a lot of kids needing a lot of help.
Statistics show that a meager 4% of annual funding from the National Cancer Institute goes to childhood cancer. That’s shockingly low for a disease that has been on the rise for decades, according to Cancer.org, which estimates that about 10,570 children under the age of 15 in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer this year.
National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month also occurs during the same month as National Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month, along with ovarian, prostate, thyroid and uterine cancer awareness. I realize there are a lot of cancers and they all deserve recognition, but how about giving the kids their own spotlight?
Oh, it is also in the shadows of October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Really? Out of 12 months in a year they couldn’t pick one that’s just a little farther out from one of the world’s most popular causes?
The American Association for Cancer Research website shows that no cancer is recognized in August. Let’s move the kids up a month and let them have the entire month to themselves.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying forget about adults battling cancer. I lost one of my best friends from high school to this horrible disease a few years ago when he was 52 years old. Brett had so much left in him to offer this world.
But while his life was cut far too short, Brett was still able to make an impact, make a difference. Children who die from cancer are having their opportunities cut short – and like the late great Whitney Houston sang, children ARE our future.
Some of the youths I’ve written about survived and sadly some lost their fight. Some are still going through the battle, but all, even a 6-year-old I wrote about just a couple weeks ago, have shown a strength every adult would do well to emulate.
These kids are staring death straight in the face and saying things like, “I’m still going to enjoy my birthday, even if it’s my last.” They’re telling their parents that everything is going to be okay, knowing inside that it’s probably not true.
I have three absolutely adorable and beautiful granddaughters ranging in age from six months to eight years. I pray daily for their health because, honestly, I do not know if I could handle it if they were suddenly handed the challenge of these children I’ve written about.
However, I have no doubt they could. They’re no more special than most kids (well, they are to me, I’m their Pawpaw), but kids as a whole are resilient and tough – and they understand a lot more than we sometimes think.
But they also look at life in a way that we adults should also copy. They look for joy, even in the face of the worst possible scenario. They look for what is going to entertain them, what is going to make them feel good, and what is going to make the ones they love feel the same way.
One particular youngster I wrote about a few years ago, in his final days, asked his parents to remember the other children around him at Cook Children’s in Fort Worth who were also fighting cancer. They did so in the form of goodie bags that included everything from stuffed animals to books and delicious yummy treat or two.
I often wonder what difference that child might have made had he made it to adulthood.
We can do more to try and help youths battling cancer grow up and live a fine life. Of course we can pray, but we can also contribute. Research costs money.
Instead of making that coffee run, perhaps brew a cup at home and give that $6 or $7 dollars to this cause. Challenge friends to do the same, post it on Facebook – which can be used for more than political fights.
Someone once said maybe what you do won’t change the world for everyone, but it can change the life of one person, and that’s a start. If one less youngster dies from cancer than last month, progress is made.
Hopefully, what I wrote inspired some of you. But if you want real inspiration, find a child battling cancer. No athlete, artist, writer, performer – well, no one at all – will inspire you more.