Although September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month (I know it is October), I think awareness needs more than one month of the year. Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States. Unlike many adult cancers, childhood cancer isn’t linked to lifestyle or environmental factors; but by genetics or chance.
The good news is that with improved care and treatment over the past 30 years, survival rates have increased to 80%. Children treated for cancer are now surviving for 5 years or more after treatment. However, many long-term health issues and late side effects follow survivors as they age. Some late side effects may not show up until many years later: emotional troubles, secondary cancers, reproduction and sexual development, growth problems, cognitive loss, heart issues (and too many more). Once a child becomes an adult and leaves pediatrics it becomes a question of where do they go for followup? Adult oncology centers do not want a pediatric long term survivor – they are not new patients nor were they an adult when diagnosed. It can become a conundrum.
Cancer is such an unbiased, devastating, far reaching disease for any age; whether you are the patient or caregiver or family or friend. I’m saddened, but also glad that there is such an awareness month. More can be done. It just seems so unfair to rob one’s childhood.
Children have potential. Our world needs them to continue on. I am so proud of the person my daughters grew into. From stalwart toddler to an oft daring teen. From curious scholar to an adventurous traveler. They have both brought us joy these many years.
Our hearts are full.
Every single year I am silently grateful. I am aware. I remember. I breathe.
Go hug your family! — Joanne