Every day in North America the equivalent of a classroom full of kids are diagnosed with cancer. That’s every single day. Yet childhood cancer is under-acknowledged and research towards better treatments and outcomes for these kids is woefully under-funded.
The good news is that everyone has the ability to make a difference in the lives of these children. Here’s how:
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
It’s easy to utilize your social media pages to help bring awareness to this devastating disease. Utilize the gold ribbon that represents childhood cancer and add it to your profile picture and posts. You can share some startling facts about childhood cancer like the one above or these:
- Cancer kills more children than AIDS, asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and congenital abnormalities combined;
- Childhood cancer survivors are at significant risk for secondary cancers later in life;
- Childhood cancer survivors are often left with physical and cognitive impairments, infertility and chronic illness;
- In North America only 3-5% of cancer funding goes to research specifically for childhood cancers.
October is Brain Tumour Awareness Month
Brain tumours are the #1 cause of cancer related death in children. You can help bring awareness to this devastating fact by adding a grey ribbon to your social media pages in October and by sharing these paediatric brain tumour facts:
- Some paediatric brain tumours, such as brain stem gliomas and pontine gliomas, are terminal upon diagnosis and no new protocols for these tumour types have been developed in over 30 years;
- The cause of brain tumours is generally unknown, making it impossible to prevent the occurrence and unrealistic to do screening for them;
- Children’s brains are still developing which means that treatments currently available for children such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can result in more substantial and permanent side effects than in adults.
Although September and October are important months to spread awareness, childhood cancer can strike at any time so becoming an advocate for young people affected by this disease should be a year-long endeavour.
Involve Your Community Media
Help spread awareness by contacting your local newspaper, blog writer or radio station and ask them to share a story in print, on air or online. Educating the public about the common occurrence of childhood cancer as well as the fact that there is very little funding available for research, helps to spread the important message that more needs to be done for these kids and their families. Perhaps you know of a family in your community who has been affected by childhood cancer? Ask them if they would be willing to share their experiences with a local reporter.
There are many wonderful organizations looking to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer and many rely on volunteers to help them do their good work. Each and every person has a unique ability that could be utilized by a non-profit or charitable organization, what’s yours? Just a few hours a week can make the world of difference in the fight for advocacy and funding. When looking for a charity to volunteer with, ensure that their mission is to help bring awareness and funding specifically to childhood cancers and that most funds raised go directly to helping the families affected or directly to much needed research.
Hold a Fundraiser
Research into childhood cancers is grossly underfunded. Many organizations dedicated to the fight for more awareness and funding rely on private donors to help them in their cause. Gather your friends and family and hold a fundraiser. A simple fundraiser like a garage sale or a raffle draw for a weekend away is a great way to not only raise money for childhood cancer, but to unite your community in a very worthy cause. Again, ensure that the organization you donate your fundraising money to is one that is dedicated specifically to childhood cancer as many organizations that raise funds for cancer in general, do not allocate any of the money raised to paediatric cancers specifically. Also ensure that the organization is a recognized non-profit or charitable establishment.
Support a Family Whose Child Has Cancer
A cancer diagnosis is an emotional and financial rollercoaster that causes extreme stress on a family. Not only are the parents concerned about their child’s well-being but they also carry the burden of potential job loss coupled with an increase in their expenses. Add to this the needs of other children and obligations inside the home, and a childhood cancer diagnosis tops the charts as one of the most stressful life events a family can experience. Simple gestures of a home cooked meal, gift certificates, snow shoveling and babysitting services can help ease the strain on families whose lives have been turned upside down. Every act of kindness allows them to spend more time and energy on the health and care of their ill child.
If every person did one of the above, the world of childhood cancer would see significant change. The future would hold better treatments and outcomes for these kids and their families who are literally in the fight of their lives.
What else can you do? Share this article and ask your friends and family to do the same.
Sue McKechnie learned her young son, Shawn had a brain tumour in May of 2006. When he passed away 18 months later after the rollercoaster of diagnosis, treatment, hope and terminal illness, she realized that even though he was gone from this world, he continued to send her courage from another. The message was clear – get out there and help other families sharing this journey. Since then Sue has written the book ‘A Sippy Cup of Chemo; A Family’s Journey Through Childhood Cancer’ hoping to spread the message to other bereaved families that they are not alone. “It’s wonderful to talk to other parents who truly understand – the grief, the guilt and all the myriad of emotions you face. We didn’t choose to be part of this group, nor would we wish it upon anyone else but here we are and we need to support each other.” All the proceeds from her book are donated to Meagan’s Walk; benefiting brain tumour research at SickKids Hospital, a charitable organization whose committee Sue is a member of. Sue continues to advocate for funding and awareness of childhood cancer through blogging, speaking engagements and her work through Meagan’s Walk.