Think about the last time you heard or saw something about disease or illness. Maybe a TV commercial for a prescription drug or a casual conversation about your neighbor’s persistent cough.
Now consider how many of these stories are about cancer. Chances are that quite a few of them are. After all, stories about cancer are among the most prominent narratives of illness, such as Susan G. Komen’s breast cancer campaign. One type of cancer, however, often appears to be overlooked.
Childhood cancer is an esoteric disease in the minds of many people. Those experiences of childhood cancer that are shared however, are often told by hospital marketing personnel, by health professionals, or by parents. Sometimes, these stories are told by adults years later as childhood cancer survivors. But hardly any of these stories are told by children with cancer who are actually living with disease. My book publication, Chronicling Childhood Cancer: A Collection of Personal Stories by Children and Teens with Cancer, was created to fill this gap.
I believe that this void says something about our society. It says something about the voices that we inadvertently silence such as those of the young or of the ill. It says something about the voices that we value instead, such as those of individuals that we may be more likely to relate to such as adults with cancer.
It seems to me that this reflects the fundamental need for childhood cancer awareness. And not merely awareness of the prevalence of the disease, but also of the individuals who have it and what experiences may accompany such a diagnosis. Fiction books like John Greene’s The Fault in Our Stars can be a first step towards raising greater awareness of childhood cancer. But these do not allow children and adolescents to enter into the discourse that so prominently permeates through their lives.
Chronicling Childhood Cancer disproves common assumptions by providing first-hand perspectives about childhood cancer. These children and adolescents share their experiences with honesty and openness, and their narratives are personal. While this eclectic collection is certainly not representative of all childhood cancer experiences, these narratives are just beginning to illuminate the intimate ways that cancer can affect these individuals and others.
Trisha Paul is a first year medical student at the University of Michigan Medical School. Trisha graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in English with Honors along with minors in
Biochemistry and Medical Anthropology. Largely because of her volunteer experiences at C.S. Mott Childrens Hospital, Trisha aspires to become a pediatric oncologist.