We are all familiar with the pink ribbons that promote breast cancer awareness. The National Children’s Cancer Society asks schools and communities to recognize the month of September by wearing a gold ribbon on their lapel, to bring awareness of the battle with cancer that thousands of America’s children are fighting.
Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15. It causes more deaths in children than asthma, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and AIDS combined. According to Kristie McNealy, M.D., one in 330 children will develop cancer before they are twenty years old. Each school day, 46 children are diagnosed with some type of cancer. There are between 30,000 and 40,000 child cancer patients undergoing treatment in the U.S. On average, 12,500 children will be diagnosed with cancer this year.
Cancer is an ugly word for anyone; cancer in a child is unthinkable. But it happens. I know of a very brave young man, who, at age 14 has battled this disease off and on since he was three years old. He has had 2 other relapses, and continues to fight, following a double cord transplant this past year. This determined youngster has gone through more than most of us will experience in a lifetime. It is his hope that people will realize what this disease is doing to our children by donating money, volunteering for cancer fund-raisers, or getting involved in other ways.
We have veered away today from our usual format of safety – at home, at work, or play, but many times we do focus on health issues. This important message needs to be spread. Money is spent on research for breast cancer, and other types of cancer; however, research funds are scarce for pediatric cancer. In the past two decades, one new cancer drug has been approved for pediatric treatment.
Professional athletes visit kids in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities, and their presence can make all the difference in the world. You can help, too, by giving of your time and/or money. If you know of a family that is going through treatment for their child, consider giving them gift certificates to restaurants, to be able to pick up food when there’s no time to prepare meals between work and hospital visits. You can do many thoughtful things just by giving your time. Be thankful if this disease hasn’t affected your family; wear that gold ribbon and remind folks what it is all about.