Thursday, September 27, 2012

We Must Do Better

I'm sitting here sobbing.  Again.

My heart breaking all over again as I re-read the story written a year ago.

This beautiful little girl, dancing on a stage, as the cancer rages inside her.  The story will end soon, that much I've known all along.  I've read this before, and it is no less tragic the second time.

My heart aches for her family.

Please, if you haven't already, go follow Mary Tyler Mom.  She needs our help to tell this story.  Donna's story, just like the story of every life touched by cancer, needs to be told.

As September is coming to a close, and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month about to be over and done with for another year, I feel like we're doing a great injustice to these children.  We talk and talk about awareness as though that's enough.  I dare you to find someone who doesn't know what cancer is.  Awareness isn't really necessary.

Having a real conversation about the treatment of cancer in children is necessary.  Having a real conversation about what it is like to care for a sick child is necessary.  Reading stories like Donna's is necessary.

We must do better.

The statistics are horrifying when you really look at them.

Every day, 46 kids are diagnosed.  Two classrooms full of kids.

Every day, 8 of those children will die.

Over two thirds of the children who do survive the cancer will grow up to have significant medical problems as the result of the treatments.  Chemotherapy is toxic poison and does permanent damage.

At diagnosis, about 20% of adult cancers have spread.  At diagnosis, about 80% of childhood cancers have spread.

We've made huge strides in treating breast cancer and many other adult cancers.  The FDA approves new cancer drugs all the time, but only one new cancer treatment drug has been approved for use in children in the last 30 years.

One.

Pharmaceutical companies have figured out how to create erections and lengthen eyelashes and given us countless other lifestyle medications.  The drugs that could fight childhood cancers?  Not as important.  Saving kids' lives isn't a profitable enough business, certainly not as much as the vanity of adults with money.

Speaking of lifestyle, it's implicated in the vast majority of adult cancers.  Diet, smoking, drinking, sun exposure, all contribute.  Many adult cancers are preventable.   Most childhood cancers are spontaneous, arising without the influence of lifestyle choices.  It's just the luck of the draw.

3% of the National Cancer Institute's budget goes to childhood cancers - that's every type of childhood cancer combined.  The American Cancer Society spends less than 2%.

Many people out there would rather turn a blind eye to all this.  Pretend that things like cancer don't happen to otherwise healthy children.  It's easier to go on with your normal life, certainly, if you don't think about these things.

It easier if you don't see pictures of a little girl twirling on a stage, knowing that she'd never dance again.

We can't stick our heads in the sand.  We mustn't.

We must do better.

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