by Tony Stoddard, Bereaved Parent
Intro by Jonathan Agin, Section Editor Childhood Cancer Awareness and Advocacy
Dedication. It is a word that conjures up various images. People are dedicated to their jobs, their families, their hobbies and everything in between. Dedication. What does it truly mean? Read the following piece by Tony Stoddard. You will instantly learn what the word means. A man on a singular mission to make everyone on the face of the earth aware that kids get cancer, and more importantly, childhood cancer is not simply bald smiling kids. Tony keeps a promise to his son Cole each and every day. Through his tireless efforts, he has helped light the world gold. I have had the privilege of working with Tony on various advocacy efforts and I will say, unequivocally, he is one of the most focused people you will ever meet. Dedication. Tony Stoddard.
As we move along in the month of September raising awareness for childhood cancer awareness month, take note of the landmarks around you. Look around to see if anyone is wearing gold ribbons. Think of Tony and all he has done to ensure that more and more people know what each means.
In June of 2010 my four year old twin boys Troy and Cole were both suffering from ear infections. We immediately took them to their doctor who prescribed antibiotics. Troy responded well to the medication and was feeling better within days. Cole however seemed to be getting worse. He had a persistent fever and had lost his appetite and strength. His doctor prescribed another type of antibiotic and still his condition grew worse.
A colleague of Cole’s doctor recommended a chest x-ray to check for pneumonia. The x-rays instead showed an orange sized mass behind my son Cole’s kidney, a mass that indicated cancer. Upon hearing this news I went home locked myself in my bedroom and screamed “NO!” repeatedly into my pillow. My son could not possibly have cancer; childhood cancer is rare, or so we thought at the time.
We were told to bring Cole to Tufts Floating Hospital for Children in Boston the next day where they would perform a biopsy on the mass to determine what type of cancer Cole had. My wife Michelle and I did all we could to hide our anguish and fear from Cole and our other two children that day. That night Cole’s fever rose steadily and Michelle had to rush him to Tufts Medical Center while I stayed home with Troy and Tara. I did not sleep that night only wishing for the morning to come quickly so I could go be with my son.
The next morning surgeons at Tufts Floating Hospital for Children performed the biopsy on Cole’s tumor. Later that afternoon we were called into a meeting room surrounded by doctors who delivered more devastating news. Cole had Stage 4 Neuroblastoma Cancer and the prognosis for his recovery was grim. Once again I shouted “NO!” over and over again. Once I recovered from the shock of this information, I settled down and told my wife, “Cole is going to beat this, he is a fighter.”
For the next year and a half Cole endured numerous surgeries, chemotherapy injections, radiation treatments, and assorted clinical trial medications. After each treatment we heard the same words from his doctors, “We’re sorry, Cole’s cancer is not responding to treatments, we don’t think we can save him.” Each time my heart shouted, “NO!” this can’t be happening!
Cole died on the morning of January 20th 2012; he was just five years old. As he took his last breath I held him in my arms and screamed “NO!” “NO!” “NO!” until I had no voice left to yell.
Shortly before Cole died he looked up at me from his hospital bed and said, “I’m not going to grow up to be or do anything.” Hearing my son speak those words tore my heart in pieces. I promised Cole, “You are going to do “Something Big” someday.” For more than two years now I have worked day and night to keep my promise to Cole. I have made every effort possible to help increase childhood cancer awareness in Cole’s memory. I want to see as much gold in September for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month as there is pink in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. That is the “Something Big” my son will do. My efforts are Cole’s work, any success I make towards that goal I make in Cole’s name. Though we still have a long way to go, we have made great strides.
Last year there was more gold displayed in September across the world than ever before. Buildings, bridges, and landmarks across the world began to shine gold in September for the first time. This year our movement has grown incredibly; iconic buildings such as the Prudential Building, The CN Tower, The One World Trade Center, Trim Castle in Trim County Meath will light gold in September. Bridges such as the Zakim Bridge, The Harbor Bridge, The Mid-Hudson Bridge and The Peace Bridge will light gold in September. Landmarks and structures such as Times Square, The Battleship New Jersey, The Parachute Jump, and Perth Concert Hall will light gold in September. Communities, town halls, trucks, and homes will all display gold throughout the world this September in recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Why is it important to have a display of gold in September? The answer is because most people know what the color pink symbolizes; especially in October, but few realize that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and gold is the symbol for children fighting cancer. This must change. People cannot begin to take action against something until they are aware that there is a problem that needs solving. Childhood cancer killing and maiming so many of our children is a problem. The lack of sufficient funding to help kids fighting cancer is a problem. These problems must be fixed and it all begins with awareness. Please display gold in September to help shed light on this monster that afflicts so many of our children. There must be gold in September. Our kids need and deserve this.
I need this to happen so that I can keep my promise to my son Cole that he will do “Something Big” someday. I have heard and shouted the word “NO!” far too many times in the last four years. When it comes to kids fighting cancer “NO” can no longer be an acceptable answer. I’m pleading for everyone to go gold in September, what do you say?
Tony (Cole’s Dad)
Childhood Cancer Awareness Advocate
Executive Director for Sophia’s Fund
Childhood Cancer Facts
At least 7 kids die from cancer each day in the U.S.A. alone.
Childhood cancer is the number one disease killer of children.
Cancer kills more children than any other disease, more than Asthma, Cystic Fibrosis, Diabetes and Pediatric AIDS combined.
Approximately 2,300 children with cancer die each year.
Every school day 36 children are newly diagnosed.
1 in 285 children will have the disease by age 20.
Cancer Research Funding
Over the past 20 years, only two new cancer drugs have been approved for pediatric use.
Less than 4% of the National Cancer Institute Budget goes toward Pediatric Cancer Research.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, which nationally goes practically unrecognized.
Currently there are approximately 40,000 children undergoing cancer treatment in the U.S.
Research funds are scarce as most money is diverted to well-publicized adult forms of cancer, such as breast and prostate.
The American Cancer Society provides only 1% of donated dollars to research pediatric cancer.