I am always so happy when I see a comment from someone on this site, or on Kendrie’s Caringbridge site, about how the stories and photos of her, a pediatric cancer survivor; growing, thriving, blooming, and about how she is inspiring to others. I am more than happy and proud to hold her up as a picture of hope to other families who are still in the fray of cancer treatment, or perhaps to people who haven’t been affected personally, but who still care about the cause of pediatric cancer research and treatments. I am still working, albeit behind the scenes, and very slowly, on the book project that Julianna Banana’s dad and I mentioned last year, in the hopes I can continue to help newly-diagnosed families.
Our family was blessed that Kendrie was diagnosed in the period she was, a period where thanks to research and clinical drug trials, children receive better treatments, more successful treatments. Survival statistics for leukemia have improved dramatically in the last thirty or forty years, and for that we should all be thankful. But it’s still not enough.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Many people don’t know that. Many people also don’t know that funding for pediatric cancer research has been cut recently, and only one new chemotherapy drug has been approved for pediatric cancer treatment in the last twenty years. Think about where the AIDS crisis was twenty years ago and imagine if they hadn’t made the wonderful progress they’ve made. Think about breast cancer research and the fabulous strides they’ve made in the past twenty years. Pediatric cancer research is equally as important --- it’s just that these little victims aren’t able to make as much noise about it.
One of our friends from the Lighthouse Family Retreat died this week. A beautiful young girl named Summer Curry, from just an hour down the road. She and her twin brother Hunter, her marrow donor (that’s right, just because you have a transplant doesn’t mean you’re cured -- did you know that?) were both baptized in the ocean during our week at the Lighthouse this summer. It was a touching, emotional, poignant moment for all of us who were fortunate enough to be included, and my heart is breaking for this family today. Summer should have been gearing up for her first year of middle school, and making plans to attend the Jonas Brothers concert at the fair next month. Not this. Never this.
A boy named Mitchell from my hometown is in the hospital right now, with the same type of leukemia Kendrie has. He attends the school where my children will go when we move home; he plays baseball on the same team as my nephew. My sister and my nephew adore him and his family; he is funny, and smart, and athletic. They are kind, strong, amazing people. Their unshakable faith, at this time of crisis, is nothing short of inspirational and amazing. I talked to his mom once, at a 4th of July celebration, and we discussed having kids with cancer. The worries, the fears, the bittersweet victories. I doubt she remembers me, but she was lovely. I liked her a lot. Mitch will most likely not be coming home from the hospital. We talk a lot about miracles, but at this point, it will take a true miracle for an earthly healing for him. His family knows that, according to the website. Does that make it ok? Or easier to face what is happening to this child? No, of course not. Mitchell should be busy playing fall ball, and avoiding girl cooties, and dealing with the hazards of fourth-grade homework. Not this. Never this.
I don’t know what the answer is. What do we have to do, as a society, to ensure children no longer suffer and die from cancer? There are so many wonderful organizations out there, all doing good work, important work. Sometimes I feel impotent, like how can I help? I’m just one little person, what can I do to make a difference? I guess the important thing is if enough of us feel that way, and do something about it, things might change. Or perhaps *keep* changing is a better way of putting it --- keep improving. ALL pediatric cancers should have 100% success rates; that is the only acceptable statistic in my mind. And we shouldn’t have to lose the Summers and the Mitchells of the world to galvanize us into action.
If you’re willing, you can help. Chili’s has a promotion with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, as they have done for several years, and will be donating 100 percent of their profits on Monday, Sept 24th, to the hospital. I mean, you have to eat, right? So why not eat at Chili’s tomorrow and know you’ve done a small part to help fight the fight. If you don’t have a Chili’s near you, you can go online and create a pepper, then donate. Our family is unable to attend tomorrow night (I’m telling you, seriously, the soccer quagmire has begun) but Blaine and I will be going for lunch tomorrow. And I’ll make a pepper in memory of Summer, and in honor of Mitchell. And wish that I could do more --- try, always, to think of a way that I could do more.