Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Continuing the quest toward a cure
September is a month when kids return to school, when we start to think about the impending fall season, and some of us even stretch our thoughts to the holiday season, which will no doubt quickly approach. What September is not, is a month when we think about losing our children to cancer, or having our lives turned upside down by a devastating diagnosis for our children. While many of our lives will be preoccupied with school duties, how we will juggle the various sports and making sure that homework is completed, for the 46 families who face a childhood cancer diagnosis each week day, these may be the last things on their minds.
There is no question that the past year (and then some!) has been a tough time for the United States. It’s been full of doubt, of economic hardship, east coast earthquakes, and most recently hurricanes, that sometimes the last thing on our mind is volunteering our time or money to help important causes. One of those important causes is the battle against childhood cancer, that receives little attention. When you put the diagnosis rate into perspective – 46 children each week day – shouldn’t there be an uproar? We can only venture to imagine that if an entire classroom of students fell ill on any given day, the story would make the nightly news that night and every night that followed until a cause was determined. However, the question begs asking – where is the plight of childhood cancer on the nightly news?
The answer may be a simple one, but it’s a complicated one too. The cure rate for childhood cancer is given in a lump number, so all childhood cancers combined have a cure rate of 80%. However, this includes childhood cancers like Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), which is a tumor located in the middle of the brain stem, has no known cure or course of treatment and almost always leads to death of the child. Average survival time after diagnosis – 9-12 months. Have you even ever heard of this type of cancer? Additionally, neuroblastoma, the cancer that took our Alex’s life, when relapsed, has a very poor survival rate. With all of that said, isn’t the fact that nearly 3,000 children are dying each year from childhood cancer in this country alone enough to get behind the cause?
Luckily, there is hope, and that hope comes in the form of volunteers across the country who take “stands” to change the landscape of childhood cancer every day, including during the National Awareness Month. Our own daughter Alex, when she was fighting childhood cancer, saw that research was desperately needed to help kids just like her “to feel better.” Since hosting her own front yard lemonade stand, thousands of volunteers have followed suit propelling Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to raise over $45 million and fund over 200 vitally important research projects. And speaking of hard times in this country, the foundation has also created a Travel Fund to help families get to the treatments their children need. As we all complain about the gas prices, think about the gas or airline cost it would take a family to travel from Arkansas to Montana receive a treatment their child needed to survive. Maybe we should all think about that the next time we fill up.
We hope that through our foundation, and the many other childhood cancer charities across the country, that September will one day be recognized for the cause it represents, and that together we will take significant strides to find better treatments and cures for all kids who battle cancer. With your support, we’re well on our way!
- Liz and Jay Scott, Alex's parents